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Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon falls in first month under Lula

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows a boundary demarcation area at the Arara indigenous reserve during an operation to combat deforestation near Uruara, Para State, Brazil January 21, 2023. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest fell in January from a year earlier, satellite data showed on Friday, in the first monthly figures under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Preliminary satellite data collected by the government's space research agency Inpe showed 167 square km (64 square miles) cleared in the region last month, down 61% from January 2022, the worst for the month in the eight-year series.

In mid-January, Brazilian environmental agents launched their first anti-logging raids under Lula, who has pledged to end surging destruction under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows a deforested area during an operation to combat deforestation at the Cachoeira Seca indigenous reserve, in Uruara, Para State, Brazil January 19, 2023. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo

Deforestation in January was also below the historical average of 196 square km for the month since 2016, although January data can be especially noisy given heavy clouds over the rainforest early in the year.

"It is positive to see such a relevant drop in January," WWF-Brasil conservation specialist Daniel Silva said. "However, it is still too early to talk about a trend reversal, as part of this drop may be related to greater cloud cover."

He noted the January data represented the first drop from a year earlier in five months.

The fresh figures come after Reuters reported exclusively on Thursday that the United States was considering its first contribution to a multilateral fund aimed at fighting Amazon deforestation, with a possible announcement during President Joe Biden's meeting with Lula at the White House on Friday.

The Brazilian-administered Amazon Fund, supported mainly by Norway and Germany, was reactivated by Environment Minister Marina Silva the day she took office last month, after being frozen since 2019 under Bolsonaro.

Even with the positive start to the year, experts and staff at environmental agency Ibama warn it may take years for Lula to deliver on conservation targets after Bolsonaro cut funding and staff at key agencies.

The Brazilian government is also fighting wildcat mining on Yanomami land in the Amazon, its largest indigenous reservation, amid a humanitarian crisis blamed on illegal gold miners.

(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Brad Haynes)

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