SAO PAULO — Annual destruction of the Amazon rain forest fell to its lowest recorded level this year, Brazilian authorities said Monday, hailing an enforcement crackdown for the drop.

The destruction between August 2010 through July 2011 was about 2,410 square miles, according to the National Institute for Space Research.

That’s an area about the size of the U.S. state of Delaware.

The institute has tracked Amazon destruction since 1988 by analyzing satellite images. The destruction peaked in 1995, when 11,220 square miles were destroyed.

Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said the government’s fast action to reduce deforestation and carbon emissions led to the drop.

“We’ll continue with determination to reduce the illegal deforestation in the Amazon,” she told a news conference in the capital of Brasilia.

Brazil’s government has stepped up enforcement of environmental laws in recent years, mostly by sending armed environmental agents into the jungle to carry out large raids on deforestation hotspots.

The announcement of the drop comes as Brazil’s Senate prepares to vote this week on changes to the nation’s benchmark environmental laws that would loosen restrictions on how small farmers use their land in the Amazon.

Environmentalists fear the bill would bring increased deforestation, and warn the current drop is likely due less to the government’s crackdown and more to the global economic downturn. They say that has reduced demand for products such as soy, timber, and cattle raised in illegally cleared pastures, that lead to the destruction.

Operators of small-scale farms and ranches defend the measure as letting them produce to full capacity and boost Brazil’s food output.

The bill would let farmers and ranchers with small holdings work land closer to riverbanks and to use hilltops, practices that are currently outlawed. It also grants amnesty from harsh fines levied on farms and ranches of any size that cleared more tree cover than legally allowed before July 2008.