Moving Floors: The Obstacles to Guaranteeing Environmental Protection of Native Forests in the Context of Argentina's Federalism
Gutiérrez, Dr. Ricardo
At the end of 2007, Argentina's Congress passed a forest law intended to provide a national floor of environmental protection for the country's remaining native forests. The law was a response to the environmental problems and social conflicts that have accompanied the high rate of deforestation over the past several decades, which was the result of the conversion of native forests into agricultural and pasture land. This thesis will show how the northern provinces have accomplished the lowering of the law's protection floor, using the province of Salta as an in-depth case study. It will argue that the Argentina's Secretary of the Environment and Sustainable Development (SAyDS) has allowed this to happen because President Cristina Kirchner (2007-the present) has appointed environmental secretaries who favor the province's control of their natural resources over the national government's constitutional obligation to provide its citizens with a safe environment. The President has appointed such secretaries because environmental protection has never been a policy priority for her or her husband, the late President Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007), and enforcing the law's protection floor would require that the SAyDS challenge economic priorities of both governors and the national government. This could have political costs, as almost all northern governors have been close allies of the Kirchners since at least 2007, and it could also limit the growth of agricultural exports, which have been the anchor of macroeconomic stability in Argentina since its default and ensuing crisis in 2001. This attitude toward environmental protection has not been uniform in the state. A Supreme Court ruling improved Salta's implementation of the law, but the province still managed to lower the law's protection floor significantly. This suggests that the national government will have to take a more active role in environmental policy and its enforcement if legislation like the Ley de Bosques is to achieve its objectives.
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