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#422502 - 11/18/11 02:58 PM NGOs warn of rapid rosewood depletion
Marty Offline

China hot for Toledo rosewood


The high foreign demand for Belizean rosewood, found primarily in Toledo, and the increasing extraction of this resource from Belizean forests has triggered widespread concerns from the environmental community over the sustainability of operations, as well as the far-reaching impacts this continued trend may have on the lives and livelihoods of Toledo residents, and the tourism and fisheries industries, which could also be affected by these operations.

The Punta Gorda-based NGO, Ya’axché Conservation Trust (YCT), which co-manages the Bladen Nature Reserve in the south of Belize, has written both the Prime Minister Dean Barrow and the Chief Forest Officer Wilber Sabido on the issue.

Lisel Alamilla, executive director, told PM Barrow in a November 10th letter that “immediate and direct action is needed.”

“The last two years has seen a steady increase in the harvesting of rosewood from community lands in Toledo. It appears that this has been largely fueled by demand for raw timber from China,” Alamilla told Barrow.

The extraction of small trees, which have been rejected by buyers, said Alamilla, suggests that rosewood stocks in Toledo may have already reached a critical level.

“We urge you to issue a moratorium on all harvesting of rosewood, and to formally re-instate the necessary legislation that will prohibit the export of raw rosewood timber,” said Alamilla. “We recommend that these two measures remain in place until such time as the Forest Department and/or Ya’axché has completed a thorough assessment of rosewood stocks on community lands in Toledo.”

Meanwhile, Yvette Alonzo, Executive Director of the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations (APAMO) has written Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Gaspar Vega in support of the opposition of its member organization, the Ya’axché Conservation Trust, to the unsustainable extraction of rosewood in Toledo.

The umbrella organization of NGOs also agrees with YCT’s call for a temporary moratorium, until the reassessment is complete.

“Immediate action is required in order to ensure the long-term availability of rosewood, and to protect the forests of Toledo from further degradation,” the organization tells Vega. “APAMO therefore calls upon the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment to take urgent action that will put a stop to the open and organized plundering of this valuable timber species.”

DPM Vega told Amandala that he has not received a letter from APAMO but he has heard of APAMO’s press release and does intend to meet with his Chief Executive Officer and the Forest Department team to discuss the matter.

He noted that the season for logging has been opened and he does not yet know what CFO Sabido will advise.

He does agree that the extraction of rosewood has to be monitored closely, to see that the logging laws are followed.

Vega said that he is aware of the concerns of the NGO community, but there are people from the Toledo villages “just bombarding” them for licenses for export of rosewood mainly to China. “I don’t know what China is doing with it,” he added.

As for the recommendation from the NGO community, particularly YCT, that Belize should look into exporting a value-added product rather than the plain rosewood, Vega said he does agree.

“We as Belizeans have to get together and be more creative,” he said, but added that this would mean “more risk-taking” and a huge investment to work with that type of wood.

Minister Vega said that he has information that during the course of the past year or so, the price of rosewood has shot up from $2 a board-foot to $5. Furniture enterprises in Belize, he said, have also applied for licenses to ship raw rosewood, he added.

Vega said he could not answer our question about how many rosewood licenses are out.

There has decidedly been an increased demand and an increase in requests to ship it out of Belize, he told us.

“It is urgent for the [Forest] Department to ensure that the [proper] process is carried out,” he told us.

As for the concerns from the NGO’s over the sustainability of the forest resource, Vega said, “...that’s one of the things we want to discuss for sure.”

Alamilla had written CFO Sabido in August saying that the organization strongly recommends that GOB include rosewood under Appendix III of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora – an international listing of threatened and endangered plants and animals), to give the rosewood protective status at least in Belize, as a means of controlling trade.

She also points out that “...logging season was closed from June 15th - October 15th but despite this fact, trees were still cut and timber was still stamped by Forest Department officials.”

YCT has raised concerns to the Forest Department over the potential threats to the species and its habitat, as well as the sustainability of the current extraction practices.

Alamilla said that YCT has identified some research priorities, including addressing the lack of information on the biology, ecology and conservation of the species; and the distribution, cover, density, size structure and regeneration dynamics of the rosewood in Belize—meaning, how the tree replenishes itself in nature.

Alonzo, APAMO’s Executive Director, told Vega in her Thursday, November 10, 2011, letter that, “While the rosewood logging is currently occurring outside of protected areas, APAMO is concerned that the protected areas will then be targeted once stocks of rosewood have been depleted on community and private lands.”

The organization points out that, “The protection and preservation of natural resources [such as rosewood] will help to guarantee the long-term sustainable development of the agriculture, fisheries and tourism sectors upon which Belize is grounded in.”

APAMO said that it supports YCT’s appeal for urgent attention to the problem. It agrees with YCT that there is a need to clarify the existing laws that address the issuance of permits and licenses, as well as the export of these woods. It also underscored the need for enforcement by the Forest Department.

APAMO is also recommending an urgent reassessment of rosewood stocks on community lands, and the development of a sustainable management plan for its future use.

Amandala


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#422590 - 11/19/11 02:06 PM Re: NGOs warn of rapid rosewood depletion [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Rosewood: Forestry Dept Recommends A Moratorium But Who's Listening?

The Rosewood controversy has been simmering for months - as the systematic extraction of the rare and precious hardwood continues unabated in the Toledo District.

It is a plunder fuelled in part by an unusual combination of well monied commercial interests working in partnership with indigenous people to cut down as many Rosewood Trees as they can, in as short a time as possible with little or no red tape for maximum profit.

And while a slew of allegations have come from NGO's and conservationists in the south about whose fuelling the rosewood rush - only rarely have we heard from the authorities in Belmopan.

But this week - the Ministry of Natural Resources has gone on a mini media - offensive - booking soft talk appearances on morning shows where the only danger is getting grazed by friendly fire.

We edged our way in this morning at WAVE Radio where we teamed up with Plus TV to catch the Deputy Chief Forest Officer Marcello Windsor.

The first thing we asked him about was the current volume of Rosewood being exported - and the complicity of the Forest Department in the wholesale plunder of the southern forests:

Jules Vasquez
"Do we know currently what is the rate and level of extraction for 2011, for example?"

Marcello Windsor - Deputy Chief Forestry Officer
"Yes, I don't have the figures, but we do know. The Forestry Department continues to reassess the rosewood extraction from the Toledo district."

Reporter
"Give us number."

Marcello Winsor
"As I said, I don't have it with me, but I can provide it if you guys want."

Reporter
"My research is showing that over the last year, about 20 million square feet of rosewood has been extracted."

Marcello Winsor
"I cannot tell you yes or no; I'd have to review the situation, and then I can confirm with you."

Reporter
"How do you guys differentiate between logwood coming out of communal lands, those coming out of private land, and those coming out of Government lands?"

Marcello Winsor
"The ones - well because we carry out an assessment."

Reporter
"I have in the back of this a piece of rosewood that I've been trying to find seal of Government because according to the law, every piece of logwood or lumber should have your seal on it. And I took this out of a lot that is selling to the Chinese."

Marcello Winsor
"Well, I think we need to qualify that statement. Every legal piece of rosewood that is coming out, has a Forestry stamp."

Jules Vasquez
"But in the case that it doesn't have a Forest stamp - it's illegal, but then obviously something is happening that illegal blocks of Rosewood are allow to be exported."

Marcello Winsor
"Well, the exportation system is when this reaches the customs compound, there is a Forestry officer that has to inspect that, of course it's from a legal source. And for the most part, what we were trying to do is ensure that the 4 leases are actually loaded into containers and that there is a Forestry Officer there."

Jules Vasquez
"Might you accept that there are huge sums of monied interest involved, and that some of the enforcement officers might not be acting in an above-board basis?"

Marcello Winsor
"Jules, I cannot tell you yes to that for the reason that, as you know, rosewood is actually sold by the pound or we measure it by tons, so what the government does is that these straps on containers would go on a scale, and that is how we would assess the volume of in it."

Reporter
"How many trucks over this last year have on the scale, which is something that you are able to regulate?"

Marcello Winsor
"I am not sure; I can get you that information. I don't have the figures with me."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you in favor of a Moratorium as Yax'che has asked for? It's saying that by its calculations, we could lose the entire rosewood stock."

Marcello Winsor
"Well, Yax'che is of course correct in something that this unsustainable harvesting of rosewood continues, then of course; we won't have anything to do next."

Jules Vasquez
"Should anything be exported without a stamp?"

Marcello Winsor
"The answer to that is no."

Jules Vasquez
"But obviously all this rosewood that's being extracted from these communal areas and are not being stamped. They don't sticker them; they are being exported."

Marcello Winsor
"There is a very good export, and that is the biggest problem. There is a great demand, so that's the reason that there is the supply. In terms of if being exported or not, there is no local market that can actually accommodate those volumes."

Jules Vasquez
"So then, it's being exported without a stamp."

And the fact is that stamps are freely given by the Forestry Department because, according to a 2010 Supreme Court judgment, the Mayans alone exercise customary land tenure rights over 33 villages.

That effectively stops the Forestry Department from having any oversight over timber extraction activities in those areas which fall under customary land tenure. The upshot of this is that no regulation or limitation can be put on their timber extraction activities.

That arrangement suits the big money Rosewood exporters just fine. It means, for example that they can extract Rosewood year round on those communal lands when timber extraction in other government controlled areas is prohibited from June to August.

And it seems to also suit the Forestry Department which - can play no part in regulating timber activities in those communities but happily stamps the Rosewood as good for export once it comes out of those communities.

We asked Windsor about this unusual arrangement:

Marcello Winsor - Deputy Chief Forestry Officer
"We also recently received a letter from the Maya Leader's Alliance that tells us that, first, the department is responsible for regulating timber extraction from national lands, and that the Mayan Leaders are, through their own regulations and law, are responsible for regulating timber extraction on customary titled lands. So that is telling us, 'Forestry Department, you have nothing to do with regards to what is happening within the Mayan communal lands."

Reporter
"So could you say, for the record, categorically? Can you state for the record that your department has no legal authority on communal lands? Could you please state that for the record?"

Marcello Winsor
"I could actually read from a letter that we -"

Reporter
"You see, that is from a letter, sir."

Marcello Winsor
"That is their interpretation."

Reporter
"What is your interpretation, sir? They can write you - I can write you and tell you to keep off my land. What is your Department's legal position?"

Marcello Winsor
"Our position is actually to try to motivate the Mayan people into finding alternative livelihoods."

Reporter
"Is that your legal position?"

Marcello Winsor
"We're trying to motivate them. We're trying to engage them in discussions for them to move away from this non-sustainable harvesting of that resource. These Mayan people come to the Forestry Department for us to stamp their lumber. We cannot ascertain that it's coming from their communal lands, or where the limits of their lands are. So that is a big problem that we are having. We need to develop mechanisms for us to ensure that indeed those timbers are coming from those communal areas. But what they're actually doing is that they bring that resource, the rosewood fletchers, to the community, and that's where the Forestry Department goes, measures, and stamps the material. So we don't know, as I am saying, from where those are actually come from. If the Alcalde and the chairperson comes to the Forestry Department and tells us, 'This is ours.' We don't know, and we just take their word that indeed these are from their communal lands."

Jules Vasquez
"But you all can't stamp anything from communal lands."

Marcello Winsor
"They request for us to do so, that's what I'm saying that they bring their material -"

Jules Vasquez
"But legally you can't."

Marcello Winsor
"Legally, I can't."

Jules Vasquez
"But are you doing so?"

Marcello Winsor
"We are doing so more because their laws stop where their community boundaries end. So outside of those communal lands, that's where the Forestry laws -"

Jules Vasquez
"But it seems as though the forestry Department is only interested in facilitating the plunder of the forest."

Marcello Winsor
"We are only - we're trying to engage and motivate these communities in alternative livelihoods."

Reporter
"How are you doing that?"

Marcello Winsor
"They come to us saying that they need to cloth their children; they need to send their children to school, and everything else that goes with that including medical care and whatever else. We, because of that ruling, cannot tell them, 'Yes, you can cut.' or 'No, you can't cut. So-"

Jules Vasquez
"Yeah, but you sanction it once it's outside."

Marcello Winsor
"Yes we do, because at least there royalties that we collect."

Jules Vasquez
But, it's clear - Marcello, and this is final from me - that there are powerful interests who are pushing to sanction any kind of logwood extraction, and you all just whistle past the grave yard, and say, 'No alternative livelihoods? Let's stamp this wood. We can't go in there, but once the wood comes out, we can do anything. And this is being pushed by the Forestry Department's lust for a royalty, but more importantly, power commercial interests who want to continue unfettered extraction."

Marcello Winsor
"Jules, we had a discussion on a one-to-one with the Community Leaders in the communities in Southern Belize. We have indicated to them that as much as we can sympathize with their economic situation, tomorrow they won't have something to put on their table. Since a few months ago, we facilitated the process, trying to work along with those community leaders, and even so, the situation has not stopped."

Reporter
"So why don't you stop stamping?"

Marcello Winsor
"The situation is not to stamping or not. The situation is we are a forest department are working towards the moratorium. We are hoping that the Mayan people understand their situation, what will happen, and don't come to us."

Jules Vasquez
"But why do you keep passing the buck? I'm saying that you can't stop stamping because the commercial interests are pushing you exorable toward that one thing that can't stop is this export. We can't stop doing this."

Marcello Winsor
"Jules, we can only recommend. The Forestry Department only recommends. We do not approve exports."

So at the current rate will that moratorium come when it is too late? According to the Yax'che conservation trust immediate and direct action is needed.

But it's not being taken, which leads to the other question, who are those powerful commercial interests that have export licenses for Rosewood?

We asked Windsor:

Reporter
"How many export licenses have been issues, and who are the holders of these licenses?"

Marcello Winsor
"Well, we've actually issued a number of licenses to a very wide number of people."

Jules Vasquez
You've gave no specifics, Marcello."

Marcello Winsor
"Off-hand, I don't know them, Jules."

Reporter
"Is the Deputy Prime Minister a owner of one of those licenses?"

Marcello Winsor
"The answer to that is no."

Reporter
"Is any Vega or any relative of Vega having a license to export?"

Marcello Winsor
"I know that there was one Vega, Giovanni Vega, and as far as I know, and as far as we've actually investigated, he is no relative to the Deputy Prime Minister."

Reporter
"So, he does hold a license."

Marcello Winsor
"He does hold a license. Anyone can actually hold a license."

Reporter
"By when will you give us the numbers to say how many export licenses you've issued?"

Marcello Winsor
"If you visit my office on Monday, I can actually give you that."

According to the Toledo Based Yax'che Conservation Trust up until at least 2007, Rosewood was protected by a customs order that prohibited the export of raw timber.

Channel 7


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#422880 - 11/22/11 02:37 PM Re: NGOs warn of rapid rosewood depletion [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline


Toledo losing Rosewood at Unsustainable rate PART 1

The recent reports of unsustainable harvesting of rosewood in the Toledo District have been in the media for several months. The logging of this rare, yet valuable hardwood has occurred in full public view, and continues even in the midst of public outcry from environmental groups, community groups and other interested observers. PlusNews’ Louis Wade travelled to the Toledo District to investigate firsthand the cause and effects that the wanton logging of rosewood has had on the affected communities. Wade spoke with a non-Mayan logger who is versed with the state of the logwood populations in the Maya communal lands as well as in Private lands.



Rosewood Logger



Done... we have Sunday Wood, Conejo, Otoxha, Santana (Santana is about ninety-five percent done), Jasinto, Emery Grove, Laguna, Mophrodye, Jordan, Blue Creek, Boom Creek, Awakate and Dolores, which is almost done. Dolores’ situation is because one guy Monsanto who has an estate about eighteen-thousand acres is almost finished. Medina Bank is probably the only village that still has left and Golden Stream that still has Rosewood. There will be a shortage of Rose Wood for the entire country of Belize, not only in our area. At the rate that it is going, I’d say that it will take another hundred years for it to grow back, because Rosewood is a tree that is hard to grow.



On Friday morning, PlusNews along with Channel 7’s Jules Vasquez approached Deputy Chief Forest officer, Marcello Windor, for an interview. Windsor had just completed his appearance on Wave Radio where he had been discussing rosewood and other related logging issues. Even after calls from concerned viewers as to how much rosewood had been extracted, no numbers were forthcoming; only the comment that the rate is unsustainable. That is where our interview with Windsor started.



Jules Vasquez, Channel 7 Journalist



Are you in favor of a moratorium as Yach’xte has asked for and it saying that by its calculations, we can lose the entire Rose Wood stock?



Marcelo Windsor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer



Yach’xte is off course correct in something, that if this unsustainable harvesting of Rose Wood continues then off course they won’t have anything to do next. What I can say is that there needs to be some regulation.



Louis Wade Jr, PlusTV Journalist



But isn’t your organization the regulating department?



Marcelo Windsor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer



Not actually. We received a letter from the Maya lawyers advising that the Supreme Court ordered the Government to seize and abstained frrm any acts that might leave the agents of Government to affect the existing value or enjoyment of the property located within the geographic area occupied by the Mayan people in the southern region of Belize. It also includes the non-interference of the Forest Department in communal lands. We also recently received a letter from the Maya Leaders Alliance that tells us that the Forest Department is responsible for regulating timber extraction from national lands and that the Mayan leaders are through their own regulations and law, responsible for regulating timber extraction on customary title land. So that is telling us that the Forest Department has nothing to do with what is happening within the Mayan Communal lands.



It is difficult to say how the Forest department came to the conclusion that the rate of extraction is unsustainable since the actual size of the rosewood population in the south appears to be unknown. Only recently in a letter dated August 9th to Wilber Sabido, Chief Forest Officer ,Ya’axche had suggested conducting such a population count. Ya’axche even suggested that the collected information be presented to CITES, as “Belize is the only range state that has not yet provided any information in response to the Action Plan.” By making this information available to credible international organizations as CITES, it says “Belize will strengthen its international reputation as a country that actively seeks to protect biodiversity and sustainably manage its forest resources.” According to Marcelo Windsor, the forest department should not be blamed for the massive logging. Instead it seems that Government’s strategy is to lay blame at the feet of the supreme court decision, as well as vague and unclear communal boundaries, and the poverty levels of the Maya people.



Marcelo Windsor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer



When the court ruled that we needed to recognize the customary Mayan land rights, the problem with it is that there are no definite boundaries that demarcate the communities down south, which are the Mayan communities down south and that actually gives rise to perhaps what you’ve perceived as being illegal.



Louis Wade Jr.



So it’s not really illegal then? Because you are saying that only I am perceiving it.







Marcelo Windsor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer



I say perceive because I cannot tell you yes or no because if these Mayan people come to the Forest Department for us to stamp their lumber, we cannot ascertain that it is coming from their communal lands or where the limits of their lands are. So that is a big problem that we are having and we need to create mechanisms to ensure that indeed those lands are coming from within the communal areas. So that is a problem, but it is not the Forest Department’s problem.



Louis Wade Jr.



Whose problem is it then?

Marcelo Windsor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer



I would rather say that it is a shared differentiated problem that we do have.



Louis Wade Jr.



Shared with whom? What departments?



Marcelo Windsor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer



Well it’s more the Mayan communities.







Juelz Vasquez




It seems like the Forest Department is only interested in facilitating the plunder of the forest.



Marcelo Windsor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer



We’re trying to engage and motivate these communities in alternative livelihood.



Louis Wade Jr.



How are you doing that?

Marcelo Windsor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer



They come to us saying that they need to clothe their children and send their children to school and everything else that goes with that including medical care. We because of that ruling cannot tell them yes you can cut or no you cannot cut.



And while we understand that lawyers and leaders of the Maya Leader’s Association or MLA would want government to abstain from interfering with maya TRADITIONAL land use practices, it begs the question, however, whether the wanton removal of all the rosewood from communal lands for the purpose of EXPORTATION to China can be classified as a Traditional land use. And While the Forestry Department has adopted an open door policy on logs from communal properties with unclear boundary lines based on what they say is the MLA legal position, we tried to find out WHAT IS the Government’s legal position. Have the two merged?



Louis Wade Jr.



What is your department’s legal position?



Marcelo Windsor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer



Our legal position is actually to try to motivate the Mayan people into finding alternative livelihoods.



Louis Wade Jr.



That is your legal position?



Marcelo Windsor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer

We’re trying to motivate them and we are trying to engage them in discussions for them to move away from this non-sustainable harvesting of that resource. That is our position.








Jules Vasquez, Journalist




But in the meantime you are happy to collect the royalty off it?



Marcelo Windsor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer



Well in the meantime we are trying as much as possible to regulate outside of those communal lands.



Tomorrow we will try to decipher how much Government gets, how much the mayas get, how much the affiliated middlemen get , and how much the exporters get from rosewood sales. When we went today to collect the promised rosewood information at the forest dept in Belmopan we were told that they were still compiling the information. But in the meantime… it is not just an issue of loss of a resource, or loss of substantial revenue… but increased racial tensions in a district that has already been trying to cope with the controversial Communal land rights court decision. Our contact shared with us a recent event between east Indian villagers of Emery Groves and mayan villagers of neighbouring San Marcos that could have turned deadly.



Rosewood Logger



So what happened is that the San Marcus villagers along with the Alcalde, some of them, (because the main community did not consult with the community; they’re just a group of bad boys I would say), came and met one of our villagers cutting Rose Wood in our village land and they didn’t consult our Village Council. They took it out and carried them to their Community Center. We went and spoke to the Chairman and the Alcalde and told them that they did something wrong and that they should have consulted our Village Council, but since they already took it out and it’s in our community, we did not want any problem, so we said that we were going to give them half of the land and half for our community because we wanted to work together as peaceful as the community should work together. However, the Alcalde said that he must consult his villagers, so he told us to come back the following evening. So the Village Council drove to San Marcus the following evening and the Alcalde said for us to wait and he would go call the Chairman. The Alcalde went and got about a hundred-fifty guys that came out with machetes to chop us and sticks to lash us when we came peacefully. So we then went to the law; we went to the Forest Department and they said ‘What this is going on?’ So they went with us to where they cut the log. The Forest Department took a GPS reading at each spot where they cut the log. Then the Forest Department took both Village Council representatives to the Lands Department and they took the Lands Officer who plotted the GPS reading on a map and showed that where the guy from Emory Grove was cutting was a quarter way off the Emory Grove Village boundary to the San Marcus road. The Emory Grove Village Council along with the Forestry Department and Lands Department told us that we could have taken everything because it was well within our village boundaries, yet we did not take everything. We went and paid those guys seventy-five cents a foot for each foot that they dragged out.



We will have more on tomorrow’s Rise and Shine as well as in our evening newscast.

PlusTV


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#423025 - 11/23/11 02:56 PM Re: NGOs warn of rapid rosewood depletion [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Toledo losing Rosewood at unsustainable rate PART 2

Rosewood lumber is a highly prized and much sought after timber. Furniture crafted from rosewood typically fetches premium prices in first world countries. In Belize, the timber is found primarily in the Toledo district in low-lying coastal areas. The District, which once boasted over 85% forest coverage, has been losing some 5000 acres of forest each year. And while the south has been targeted for years as a prime location for the extraction of various hardwoods, environmental organizations such as Ya’axche Conservation Trust and APAMO, have been highlighting the need for an immediate moratorium on rosewood. This is because there has been a consistent increase in the harvesting of this rare timber. PlusNews has confirmed that over the last 6 months alone the LEGAL extraction of rosewood increased a whopping 600%. One can only estimate that also as to represent the increase of ILLEGAL rosewood extractions. The entire district, which is comprised of almost five hundred thousand (500,000) acres of forest, is only serviced by 2 forest officers. While the issuance of licenses have been DECREASING in most of the country, in the Toledo District, licenses have been on the INCREASE! What is even more alarming is that most of these licensed loggers have NOT been using portable sawmills or band-saws; which are more efficient. Instead, they have been using the chainsaw. The chainsaw is a cheaper cutting tool; it is highly portable so loggers can go into the forest faster, it can go in deeper, and it cut more logs in a shorter period of time. It is also an incredibly wasteful process; leaving behind 1 inch of Rosewood for every 1 foot that is cut. One man with one chainsaw is capable of harvesting at least 10,000 cubic feet per month. This event is repeating itself hundreds of times daily in at least 25 villages; and some say as much as 32 villages in the Toledo District. These and other statistical numbers that Plusnews has in its possession is what prompted our journalist Louis Wade, to speak with Deputy Chief Forest Officer Marcello Windsor.

Jules Vasquez, Channel 7 Journalist
Do we know, currently, what is the rate and level of extraction for 2011 for example?

Marcello Windsor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer
Yes, I don’t have the figures, but we do know; the Forest Department continuously assesses the Rosewood extraction from the Toledo District.

Louis Wade Jr. PlusTV Journalist
My research is showing that over the last year about twenty million square foot of Rosewood has been extracted.

Marcello Windsor
I cannot tell you "yes" or I cannot tell you "no", I’d have to review the situation then I can confirm.

Jules Vasquez
Obviously something is happening that illegal blocks of Rosewood are allowed to be exported.

Marcello Windsor
Well in the exportation system, when this reaches the Customs Compound, there is a forest officer that has to inspect that it is from a legal source. For the most part, what we were trying to do is ensure that before these fletches are actually loaded into containers that there is a forest officer there.

Jules Vasquez
Might you accept that there are huge sums of money involved? There are money interests involved and that some of the enforcement officers might not be acting in an above board basis.

Marcello Windsor
I cannot tell you "yes" to that, for the reason that as you know Rosewood is actually sold by pound or we measure it by tons. So what the Government does is these structure containers would actually go on a scale and then that is how we would assess the volume on it. When the court ruled that we needed to recognize the customary Mayan Land Rights, the problem with it is that there are no definite boundaries that demarcate the communities down south, which are the Mayan Communities down south. So that is a big problem that we are having and we need to develop mechanisms for us to ensure that indeed those laws are actually coming from within the communal areas. It’s not a door that the Government opened it’s a door that the court ruling actually opened. They should have actually cautioned the Mayan people that with that empowerment comes a responsibility and perhaps it’s very convenient for them not to demarcate a boundary on their claimed lands. So that is something that perhaps we need to insist that they do so that we know for sure where their lands ends and where national or private lands begin. We, because of that ruling cannot tell them yes you can cut or no you can’t cut.

Jules Vasquez
Yes, but you sanction it once it’s outside.

Marcello Windsor
Once it’s outside yes we do. bBcause at least there is some royalties that we get.

Louis Wade Jr.
What is the royalty per square foot.

Marcello Windsor
We actually umm…

Louis Wade Jr.
What is the royalty per weight?

Marcello Windsor
It’s sixty dollars per ton.

Louis Wade Jr.
Sixty dollars per ton. How many export licenses have been issued and who are the holders of these licenses?

Marcello Windsor
Well we’ve actually issued a number of licenses to a very wide number of people.

Louis Wade Jr.
Is any Vega or relative of Vega having a license to export?

Marcello Windsor
I know that there was one Vega, Giovanni Vega and as far as I know and as far as we have investigated, he is no relative to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Louis Wade Jr.
So he does hold a license?

Marcello Windsor
Yes he does. Anyone can actually get an export license; all you need to do is just present your receipts.

Louis Wade Jr.
Did you promise several organizations in the south that the two officers that are currently forest officers in the Toldeo District would be removed, one of them by June? Have they been removed since?

Marcello Windsor

What we are doing is that we are refurbishing the houses at Machaca Forest Station and as soon as that is completed, transfers will happen.

Louis Wade Jr.
Now, the Machaa Forest Station has on its door that there is a moratorium that is currently up on all commercial logging taking place since February 17th 2011 in the entire Toledo District.

Marcello Windsor
I haven’t seen that

Louis Wade Jr.
Are you aware of it? Is there suppose to be a moratorium up?

Marcello Windsor
On commercial logging? I know that the logging season closes on June 15th and actually opens on October 15th; I don’t know if that is what that is referring to?

Jules Vasquez
Has extraction been happening during that period of time?

Marcello Windsor
It is, within the Mayan Communal lands.

Louis Wade Jr.
Only the Mayan communal lands?


Marcello Windsor
As far as we know yes.

Jules Vasquez
There are powerful interests who are pushing to sanction any kind of logwood extraction and all you all just whistle pass the grave yard and say ‘Well no alternative livelihood this week. We can’t go in there but once the wood comes out we can do anything and this is being pushed by the Forest Department’s lust by a royally who want to continue on fettered extracted.'

Marcello Windsor

Jules we had a discussion on a one to one with the community leaders in the communities in Southern Belize. We have indicated to them that as much as we can sympathize with their economic situation, tomorrow there won’t have something to put on the table, because off course it’s unsustainable - the way they are actually harvesting down south.

Louis Wade Jr.
But wouldn’t you also say by extension it is unsustainable how you are stamping?

Marcello Windsor
We have assessed the volumes of timber in those communities and we have requested them to discontinue or to stop and since a few months ago, we have been facilitating the process and working and trying to work along with those community leaders and even so, the situation has not stopped.

Louis Wade Jr.
So why don’t you stop stamping?

Marcello Windsor
The situation is not stamping or not stamping, the situation is…

Louis Wade
It’s all fueled by export.

Marcello Windsor
Yes, we as a Forest Department are working towards moratorium. We are also working toward enlisting this species under appendix three of sites, which is the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species and we believe that that might be the only way that we can actually bring some sort of regulation toward the export of this commodity.

Louis Wade Jr.
So you don’t see stop stamping as a viable method?

Marcello Windsor
We are hoping that the Mayan people understand their situation and what will happen and don’t come to us


PlusNews understands that Government of Belize plans to appeal the Chief Justice’s decision in regards to Communal lands. By that time, even if government wins the case, at the rate rosewood is being extracted from the district, the rosewood would have been completely removed from all Communal lands in the south. We continue to lobby the Forest department for the statistics they promised us would be ready for Monday as out 4 visits to the department have so far come up empty.

PLUS TV

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#423132 - 11/24/11 02:29 PM Re: NGOs warn of rapid rosewood depletion [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline


Toledo losing Rosewood at unsustainable rate PART 3

Yesterday PlusNews reported that while logging permits and licenses issued by the forest Deprtment have been decreasing steadily over the years, it has, however, been increasing in the Toledo district. And most of these Toledo permits, 80% of them, have been for the extraction of Rosewood. Likewise, when it comes to the actual exportation of the wood out of the country, PlusNews has been reliably informed that there are close to 40 individuals and companies exporting hardwood out of the Toledo District; 14 of them are exporters of rosewood. But all of them combined do not export even 50% of the total rosewood; as more than half of the legally exported rosewood is being done by one company; GIV Import Export Co Ltd.

Louis Wade Jr. PlusTV Journalist
Is any Vega or relative of Vega having a license to export?

Marcello Windsor
I know that there was one Vega, Giovanni Vega and as far as I know and as far as we have investigated, he is no relative to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Louis Wade Jr.
So he does hold a license?

Marcello Windsor
Yes he does. Anyone can actually get an export license.

GOB lays blame for the extermination of rosewood on the maya communities even as it continues to indiscriminately stamp rosewood flitches and distribute exportation licenses. Yet, a cursory read of the Supreme Court decision in the maya land rights case states: QUOTE “ I order the defendants ,in consultation with the Maya people or their representatives, to develop the legislative, administrative or other measures necessary to create an effective mechanism to identify and protect Maya customary property rights in land in accordance with Maya customary laws and land tenure practices.” UNQUOTE In other words The Government was tasked by the Courts to Develop laws to help PROTECT the Maya Land rights, and not to exploit it. According to Marcello Windor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer, GOB collects $60.00 BZD per ton of rosewood. This same 1 Ton of Belize rosewood fetches some $4200.00 BZD once it reaches Shanghai and Guandong in China. Our calculations show that the gross distribution of finances obtained from Toledo Rosewood is as follows: (CHART)

$ 0.50 maya per 1 cubic ft
$ 1.71 government per 1 cubic ft
$ 4.00 for permit holder per 1 cubic ft
$ 8.00 for middleman per 1 cubic ft
$ 120.00 for exporter per 1 cubic ft
$ 500.00 for finished product per 1 cubic ft

The calculations show that the Mayas involved in the cutting of rosewood receive the least financial benefits, while the Exporters and the Chinese furniture industry is raking in Millions of dollars. And in a few months time, the exploitation will all be over; at least for decades…

This sign posted at the machaca outpost in the Toledo District shows that early this year there was an attempt to stem the flow of rosewood out of the district. The attempt was again made via an e-mail promise to Conservation organizations in the south by Chief Forest Officer Wilbur sabido that said QUOTE “ The Forest Department via my office had informed Machaca about the non-stamping of logs starting from the August 8, 2011 date, this however did not preclude individuals from continuing the commercialization or movement of stamped and unstamped material. UNQUOTE There was also a promise to establish checkpoints and law enforcement interventions in key areas where illegalities are ongoing… but this did not occur at a sufficient rate to stem the exploitation. Even to date, the promised rotation of forest officers has not been forthcoming to the district.

It takes 100 years for a rosewood tree to develop into maturity. But the demand for Belize rosewood in China is threatening the rosewood stocks even beyond the 100 year lifespan of the plant. It appears that the Chinese exporters are now turning to the roots of the rosewood trees themselves. Plusnews understands that one of the suppliers has been approached to provide them with samples of the root of the tree. It seems that they are now interested in also exporting the root of the trees for exotic furniture. Here is a tree stump that was brought out and cleaned to show the exporters costing and quality of what is available.

Louis Wade Jr.
The Chinese are now coming, not only for the timber itself, but also for the root.

Marcello Windsor
The root I definitely advised that that should be a no no.

Louis Wade Jr.
Who are you advising?

Marcello Windsor
We can only tell the Mayan people what will happen next as we are currently doing.

Louis Wade Jr.
So in other words, you are saying that if they continue to extract the root, all you will be able to do is advice them?

Marcello Windsor
We can only advise them; we have no rights, our mandates do not operate within communal lands.

And While the hardwood that is getting the most attention is the rare rosewood, there is another, less publicized wood that is now being exported as rosewood stocks begin to dwindle. Loggers are now turning their attention to the Black Poisonwood; it is now being exported in large volumes by the same large exporters. Observers of the industry are concerned that once the rosewood stocks are exhausted, the forest department will have the same attitude towards other lumber stocks; for example Black poisonwood.

Louis Wade Jr.
Residents in the south are concerned that the same pattern attitude toward the extraction of Rosewood and the modus operandi that your department is carrying out currently with Rosewood that in the next the few months when Rosewood is depleted, that is going to be the very same modus operandi that you will have for other hard woods.

Marcello Windsor
With regards to the modus operandi, we cannot blame the Forest Department, it’s very easy to blame people or any institution. As I rightly read, that court ruling definitely alienates the Forest Department from operating within communal lands.

Louis Wade Jr.
So could you state for the record categorically that your department has no legal authority on communal lands? Could you please state that for the record?

Marcello Windsor
I can actually read it from a letter.

Louis Wade Jr.
No that is just a letter. Just a minute Sir; what is your interpretation Sir? They can write... I can write you a letter and tell you to keep off my land.

Marcello Windsor
That is the government’s position.

Louis Wade Jr.
What is your position?

Marcello Windsor
Well what the umm…

Louis Wade Jr.
What is your department’s legal position?

Marcello Windsor
Our legal position is actually to try to motivate the Mayan people into finding alternative livelihoods.

Plus news will continue to follow this story.

PlusTV


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#425214 - 12/14/11 02:10 PM Re: NGOs warn of rapid rosewood depletion [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

President of the Maya Leaders Alliance on Rosewood extraction

In June of last year the Maya Leaders won the case against the government over land property rights. Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh ruled in favor of the Mayas and granted thirty-eight villages in the south tenure of their inherited land. In that ruling, the CJ had also restrained the government from proceeding with commercial activities without the approval of the Mayas. However, communal land ownership still remains a concern for residents of the Toledo District as the highly demanded Rose wood is continually being removed from their lands. Plus news sat down and spoke with Gregorio Coy, President of the Maya Leaders Alliance.

Gregorio Coy, President, Maya Leaders Alliance
Our dream was not that. When we fought for the Mayan Land Rights case, we fought to protect and preserve it; that is the struggle of the indigenous people of the Mayan Leaders Alliance. This is because government after government has granted out concessions to big companies; they are destroying our forests. Forests are not only about trees, they also speak about us the human beings, animals and all the wild lives. So we are very concern when it comes to the forest. We fought for the Mayan Land Rights and we won. Again, we were to sit around the table with the government to put a mechanism in place as to how we should work with the government to manage these resources that we have. Rosewood in Toledo is the goal of Toledo.

The unrestrained extraction of the timber over the past two years and exponential increase over the past six months, has led to the removal of millions of cubic feet of Rosewood and according to Coy, finding a mature and flourishing Rosewood Tree is now a rarity.

Gregorio Coy
It is so sad to see that the Rosewood is almost over. These trees grow for many years; according to our grandfathers and Rosewood are traditional goals for Mayan people. We are very concerned; the Maya leaders are very concerned. We went and educate our people on harvesting these species in the forest. Then again, we did not have the authority to control it, because the Minister of Natural Resources has made it publicly that people can harvest it. However, I did like a part of his speech, when he mentioned Rosewood; he said that “If you want the log, you must apply.” However, there is no prove or evidence where the application has been granted. To us, it is illegal, no one is controlling it, neither the Mayan Leaders Alliance, nor the government or the Forest Department. This is because if you go out to the community and these people what kind of document they hold to harvest these logs, they would present to you nothing. There is like an open thing and there is no more control of it.

Coy says that persons being granted permission to log in their communal lands is a direct betrayal of the ruling by Conteh and that the MLA has discussed this intrusion with government officials.

Gregorio Coy
We believe that the people of every community have the voice to say what they decide on. If they decide to say ‘We will not harvest our Rosewood’ that is their choice. This is what we went to discuss with the higher authorities in office from the Forestry Department, that because the market is open in Belize, the people have an advantage thinking that since they have the market, then they can sell everything that they have. Again, it shows me that they want to show us that we cannot say anything about this Mayan Land Rights case. It’s not because we can’t say anything; it is because there is no working relationship with them. We do agree that there should have been control of these logs. Under the Forest Act, you should only cut certain sizes of trees, but today when we speak about Rosewood, Rosewood is all gone.

Oscar Requena, Toledo West Standard Bearer for the PUP, appeared on Rise and Shine this morning and one of the topics he discussed was that of the Rosewood situation in the south and the fact that the Mayans are receiving meager wages in this process.

Gregorio Coy
We need to understand that yes we have our resources and we need to use them in a sustainable manner; however, the problem with it is that is not being done currently. We need to look at who is controlling the Rosewood situation right now in the Toledo District and the prices that our people are getting; they are getting some meager prices - three dollars, four dollars per foot. We know that when they sell these on the international markets, they are certainly getting higher prices. I think there have been constant calls; people are certainly getting up and raising the issue; the problem is that no one is listening. We all know why they are not listening, because we know who the Rosewood industry is connected to and they are raking in millions of dollars.

Tomorrow we will tell you about a rosewood misunderstanding that took place between villagers of San Marcos and Emery Grove.

PlusTV


Top
#427300 - 01/10/12 02:33 PM Re: NGOs warn of rapid rosewood depletion [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline


San Marcus villagers demonstrate over rosewood logging

Turmoil continues in the south concerning the illegal extraction of Rosewood in the San Marcus Community. On Thursday 5th at about 4:30pm, villagers of San Marcus rallied together to hold a demonstration against rosewood extraction in what they claim as their communal lands. The villagers blocked the road to San Marcus in order to cease all Rosewood that was being transported through the village. The road was cut off for nearly three hours and the police had to intervene. According to the villagers we spoke to, they are saying that the village leaders are not managing the resources of the community in a sustainable manner. Meanwhile, the following day had its own wind of events, when the Chairman of the village announced that he would be granting consent and recommendation to anyone who is interested in Rosewood logging. Following this, about 120 men were granted permission to do logging and so they came out, chainsaws in hand, ready to get to work. Still, quite a number of the villagers remain in strong opposition to the extraction of Rosewood in San Marcus and while there seems that not much can be done to halt the logging at this time, they continue to protest on the grounds that the plant ought to be protected and conserved for future generations.

PlusTV


Top
#427419 - 01/11/12 02:39 PM Re: NGOs warn of rapid rosewood depletion [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

More rosewood troubles in Toledo, while minister promises attention to battered Barranco roads

Toledo East area representative Peter Eden Martinez has responded to a complaint from Barranco native, Angela Palacio, decrying the horrible conditions that the roads of Barranco have been in lately, partly due to oil exploration activities in the vicinity, as well as rosewood harvesting from Toledo lands.

Martinez, Minister of Human Development and Social Transformation, has responded saying “I am aware that the streets in the village have deteriorated considerably due to excessive traffic, and the torrential rains in the south has not helped in allowing the remedial work to be done in the village proper. The Ministry of Works will be doing some work in Barranco, as soon as the weather permits.”

Palacio had also requested attention for the road leading to Barranco Village, which she noted is an attraction to tourists who want to see the hometown and burial site of the late Garifuna music icon, Andy Palacio.

Martinez said that, “The upgrade of the Barranco Road from the Southern Highway to Barranco Village is indeed a priority for me, and efforts are being made to identify funding.”

Martinez also commented that, “While there has been the deterioration of the streets (which will be fixed), employment for our people by the oil company becomes available.”

Of note is Martinez’s declaration that he has recommended two men from Barranco, Egbert Valencio and Dr. Francis Arzu (a teacher), for logging concessions.

As we noted in the weekend issue of Amandala, rosewood logs, which trade for handsome prices on the foreign market, and particularly China, have been showing up in the village, indicating logging in the area, possibly by locals.

Wil Maheia, nationalist and activist, noted that the woods don’t carry a stamp of the Forest Department, which indicates that they are being illegally harvested.

There are now safety concerns over the way rosewood is being transported in the village. Maheia reported today that an elderly man of Jacintoville, another Toledo village, has been hospitalized after a rosewood log fell off a truck and hit him, breaking his legs.

According to Maheia, the accident happened when the man was returning from church on Sunday.

The victim, Anthony Edwards, was flown to Belize City via air ambulance to receive treatment, Maheia reports.

Police are reportedly investigating the matter and have confiscated the truck, he indicated.

Amandala


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#427775 - 01/14/12 02:56 PM Re: NGOs warn of rapid rosewood depletion [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
PM Barrow agrees to rosewood probe

Prime Minister Dean Barrow this morning told Amandala that, “I feel that the time has come to get some kind of independent assessment or evaluation” of the rosewood situation.

“I have to get independent persons to go there and give me a report,” the Prime Minister told us.

Barrow said that he expects that there is a bit of “hanky panky” going on with the rosewood production.

Our newspaper has carried multiple reports indicating that there is illegal harvesting of rosewood, which is primarily destined for export to China. Confirmation was received last week from the Forest Department and from the NGO community that there have been reports of unauthorized rosewood harvesting from protected areas, including the Deep River Forest Reserve and the Sarstoon-Temash National Park.

“There are too many complaints.... So many people are saying all is not well,” Barrow told us.

As for a letter from Ya’axche Conservation Trust (YCT), pleading with Barrow to put a moratorium into effect until a proper assessment of the rosewood situation can be carried out, so that the harvesting of rosewood can proceed in a more environmentally friendly and sustainable manner, Barrow told us he has not seen it.

Our newspaper has received multiple reports of rosewood being transported without the requisite Forest Department stamp.

This weekend, an elderly man of Jacintoville suffered as an accidental casualty of the improper transportation of rosewood when one of the logs fell off a truck and reportedly broke his two legs.

Amandala

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#429995 - 02/09/12 02:33 PM Re: NGOs warn of rapid rosewood depletion [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Conservation Group Questions Rosewood Survey

For much of the latter part of last year, the issues surrounding Rosewood logging have featured prominently in the news.

Well, it has followed us into the new year with one conservation group voicing its concerns about the government's resolution to deal with the issue.

Three weeks ago, the government decided that inventory will be taken of the remaining Rosewood in Toledo through a survey and assessment.

The government will also assess how much illegal activity -if any- has taken place. This survey is to be carried out by the Ministry of Natural Resources with the participation of the conversation NGO's in the Toledo District.

One such NGO, however, had some concerns. Ya'axche Conservation Trust has raised some important issues about the assessments which will take place, namely, the methodology which they call "questionable" and the location which is not clearly defined. After what they call brief and unhelpful contact with forestry officials, the organization has been unable to make further contact.

As a result, they will not be participating in the inventory until their concerns have been addressed, and they point out that while the inventory can provide useful information, it will do nothing to alleviate the reckless logging activity.

Channel 7

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