Wherever roads or railroads are constructed to facilitate communication among parts of the country, forests are removed. Approximately 70% of deforestation occurs within 50 km of large roads. Eight to 18 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon is in danger of deforestation within a quarter-century by the proposed construction of only four major roads (Bonnie, et al., 2000). Accessibility to interior and hitherto inaccessible portions of the forest are provided by roads, and people will follow them for mining, homesteading, and extraction. In Costa Rica, a large road building effort was made in the late 1970’s and now no forests are left anywhere near the roads (Sader and Joyce, 1988). When Brazil built the Trans-Amazon highway, vast areas of the Amazon basin were opened to logging and farming, and the government has since continued to build roads into primary forests. Economists often assume that access to markets will increase the profit to farmers and will reduce the incentive to cut forests. However, it turns out that obtaining a profit from land encourages farmers to open more land to agriculture in order to increase their profit still more. In Nicaragua, cattle grazing is profitable. Roads built to increase accessibility to these ranches have indeed increased profitability, but the profits have been used to convert more forest land to ranches.

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