Journal letter to the editor. Despite international conservation efforts 1, deforestation in the Amazon continues apace. While the current focus is on immediate responses to the crisis, the roots of deforestation are deep, institutional and societal. Institutional incentives for land speculation coupled with extreme inequality in tenure are the main engine of deforestation. With a Gini coefficient of 0.50 in 2017, Colombia has the greatest inequality of land ownership in the Americas after Brazil 2, distorting land-use practices for all landholders. While the frequency distribution of land tenure is unknown in the absence of an updated national property registry, 1% of holders held a total of 56 Mha (81%) of productive land in 2014, and most of these were large holdings> 500 ha (Fig. 1) 3.