Brazil's president has ordered the creation of a massive reserve in the Amazon rain forest in response to a recent rise in violence, including the recent killings of an American environmental activist and an advocate of landless peasants.

President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva signed the plan late Thursday, designating tens of thousands of square kilometers of rain forest as environmental protection areas.

The president said he took the step to protect the forest and stop the violence associated with logging and ranching.

U.S. environmental activist, Sister Dorothy Stang was killed Saturday after campaigning for decades for the rights of landless peasants. On Wednesday, the leader of a peasant workers union, Daniel Soares da Costa was also gunned down.

Brazil's government has sent 2,000 troops to the Amazon rain forest region following the deaths.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.