Vegetation cover change has been reported to occur over large areas in Mato Grosso, the central-western Brazil state known to have the highest deforestation rate. 5-year Digital Vegetation Model (DVM) Maps for the 1981-2001 period were created using the first components of the principal components analysis(PCA) of monthly NOAA/AVHRR multispectral data(Channels 1, 2 and 4). From these 5-year DVM vegetation change maps were obtained. Three main types of vegetation changes are identified: Degradation, Recovery and Transitional states. Vegetation and land cover changes are characterized by deforestation of tropical rainforests in the north and large-scale savannization expanding from the south. Change rates are shown to be larger over non-inhabited areas (56%) and far away from the main highways(52%), than over the populated zones in the south(42%), or within 50km of the roads (44%). These findings point not only to the role of population density and road building in accelerating deforestation, but also to that of navigable rivers, especially over the roadless north. In total, degraded and transitional areas had expanded over 53% of MT between 1981 and 2001, in relation to increasing cattle ranching and soybean production in this state. All these findings highlight the non-sustainable processes of resource development occurring in Brazil and especially in Mato Grosso.