The history of Venezuela, from habitation by indigenous people to Spanish colonization, is similar to that of Colombia. Venezuela has had periods of political and economic instability in the twentieth century, some of which is tied to the development of its petroleum industry (Rodríguez 2000). Venezuela contains about 88 million ha of land (about 218 million ac) and is now about 52% forested (Table 2.3). Logging efforts beginning around 1950 were aimed at transitioning land use from forests to agricultural or cattle production. In the 1980s, the annual rate of deforestation was among the highest in Latin America (Kammesheidt et al. 2001). Forestland area has continued to decrease since the late 2000s at a rate of about −0.6% per year (Table 2.3). Over 90% of the forest area in Venezuela is owned by the government and concessions are provided to forestry companies for the rights to harvest trees on public land. As with other South American countries, a number of permanent forest estates have been established to protect native forests.
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