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How Mexico’s Vast Tree-Planting Program Ended Up Encouraging Deforestation

Sowing Life, AMLO’s flagship environmental project, may have resulted in the loss of forest cover nearly the size of New York City

A motorcyclist observes an intentional forest fire in the jungle along a road in Oxkutzcab region, Mexico, on Feb. 18. Flaws in President Lopez Obrador’s flagship environmental project risk undoing its good intentions.

A motorcyclist observes an intentional forest fire in the jungle along a road in Oxkutzcab region, Mexico, on Feb. 18. Flaws in President Lopez Obrador’s flagship environmental project risk undoing its good intentions.

Photographer: Jeoffrey Guillemard for Bloomberg Green

In the hills of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, the jungle abruptly stops and dozens of saplings grow scattered around charred tree stumps.

The seedlings are a sign of the government’s vast reforestation program known as Sembrando Vida, or Sowing Life. But so too is the burned out clearing; in this part of Mexico, the project is linked to widespread destruction as well as regeneration.