RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – The government on Friday awarded a disputed patch of Amazon rainforest to a sustainable development project championed by the slain American nun Dorothy Stang.
Stang, 73, was killed on Feb. 12 by gunmen allegedly hired by the rancher Vitalmiro Moura who wanted to log the area she was trying to protect and whose ownership was being disputed in the courts.
“We are responding to a cruel murder that was an affront to the people of Para,” Agrarian Development Minister Miguel Rosseto said, adding that having the 22,239-acre area included as part of the sustainable development project had long been a dream of Stang’s.
Stang spent the last 23 years of her life working with poor rain forest communities around Anapu, a small town on the Trans-Amazon highway, trying to defend settlers’ land rights and the environment.
Environmentalists say the Amazon loses 9,170 square miles of forest every year, and that about 20 percent of the 1.6 million square miles of wilderness has already been cut down.
Sustainable development projects are a zoning mechanism under which the government grant plots of land to poor settlers under the agreement that they farm in ways that leave most of the forest intact.
Police have arrested three suspects in connection with Stang’s killing.