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Brazil has long ago removed most of the perverse government incentives that stimulated massive deforestation in the Amazon in the 1970s and 1980s, but the highly controversial policy concerning road building still remains. While data is now abundantly available due to the constant satellite surveillance of the Amazon, the analytical methods typically used to analyze the impact of roads on natural vegetation cover are methodologically weak and not very helpful in guiding public policy. This article discusses the respective weaknesses of typical geographic information system (GIS) analysis and typical municipality-level regression analysis, and shows what would be needed to construct an ideal model of deforestation processes. It also presents an alternative approach that is much less demanding in terms of modeling and estimation and is more useful for policymakers.

Issue 3, pp 201-210



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