The exploration of lumber in the rainforests

In according with the aforementioned items, the federal constitution in Article231, §2º, assures the indigenous communities the permanent ownership of their lands and the exclusive usufruct rights of the riches from the soil, rivers and lakes on their properties. In this light, the use of these riches –or assets-- is expressly allowed to the Indians, and in accordance with the Civil Code, Article 43, I, they are immovable assets, real estate. “the soil and its surface, accessories and natural adjacencies including trees and the fruits of the trees.” There is no doubt, therefore, that the forest assets on the indigenous peoples' lands are among the natural resources that these people--and only they-- can utilize exclusively, according to the Federal Constitution.

Thus these communities may freely use the forest resources on their lands in traditional activities, aimed at subsistence or internal consumption and may cut trees to build homes, make domestic utensils, furniture, work tools or instruments, fences, canoes, and boats, and use their forest resources for any other objective or purpose to make their physical and cultural survival possible. In the development of their traditional activities, the indigenous peoples' communities are not subject to any legal limitations since the Constitution assures them the recognition of their “social organization, customs, languages, beliefs and traditions” and “original “rights on the lands that they traditionally occupy (Article 231, head of article). As a result, there are no general limitations established by the Forest Code on their traditional activities. Thus, they can plant, set up their planting areas and villages even in the areas of permanent preservation established by the Forest Code.

There are several juridical conditions for the exploration of forest resources on indigenous peoples’ lands for their sale and commercialization. These lumber activities on a commercial basis must be subjected to environmental legislation that is applicable in the case in question. Thus, they will be subject to all the restrictions imposed by the Forest Code, by Law 7.754/89, by legislation that governs the exploration of forest and lumber resources in the form of sustainable forest management services which prohibits the cutting down and the sale of certain species of trees.

It should be emphasized, in conclusion, that the exploration of forests conducted by third parties on indigenous peoples’ lands, violates flagrantly the right of the exclusive usufruct privileges of the community, which is assured by the constitution for the indigenous communities. This illegal conduct can cause suits and legal measures in an administrative sphere, through of fines, the seizing of lumber and other administrative sanctions, imposed by the Brazilian Environmental Institute-Ibama, as well as a civil suit (payment of indemnities to the indigenous communities

(Juliana Santilli-April, 2001).