Why Do People Cut Down Rain Forest Trees?

People cut down rain forest trees to build roads, harvest timber, and clear land for livestock grazing, agricultural production and urban development. The poor clear forests to create subsistence farms, and large commercial enterprises clear tracts of land for industrial-scale mechanical farming.

Deforestation often occurs from a number of either simultaneous or sequential factors. Roads are built to create infrastructure in under-developed areas or sometimes to provide access points for loggers. Once transportation is possible, loggers harvest wood for construction, fuel and charcoal. After the valuable timber has been extracted, loggers are followed by small farmers who use slash and burn techniques to quickly cut down and dispose of the remaining trees and brush. The fires often get out of control and cause massive damage to the forest ecosystem.

In some rain forest areas, such as the Amazon basin, large industries clear vast tracts of land for cattle ranching and soybean production. Governments offer financial incentives in the form of tax breaks and agricultural subsidies to clear forests and establish agricultural enterprises. Because of the lucrative global soybean market, eliminating forests in favor of soybean production is considered an effective use of the land. Clearing of the land leads to settlement and land ownership claims. Researchers using NASA satellite data discovered that deforestation rates were tied to the rise and fall of global market prices of goods such as soybeans, beef and timber.