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#457875 - 02/12/13 08:28 AM Rosewood in Belize: the truth behind the smoke  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,785
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Commentary by: Ya'axché Conservation Trust

Rosewood logging in Belize. Photo by: Will Maheia.

In Belize, the uncontrolled and often illegal harvesting of rosewood has been, and still is, one of the major environmental issues in the country. In March of last year, the government established a moratorium on the export and extraction of rosewood, however illegal harvesting continued. On Friday 11 January, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development made the bold move of burning confiscated illegally cut rosewood flitches. The purpose of this action was to send a clear message to the world and illegal loggers that Belize will not tolerate illegal logging of its precious forests and that no one will profit from this illegal trade.

How has Belize ended up in a situation where such drastic action was necessary? The Maya communities of Toledo have used rosewood for traditional purposes for many years, but the levels of harvesting seen from 2010 onwards have been way beyond anything that could be classified as "traditional use." Harvesting a few trees each year from the forests surrounding the villages to build houses is one thing; harvesting hundreds of trees each month for export to China is quite another.

It is no secret that in the past Belize has permitted the export of raw rosewood lumber. However, from 1992 to 1996, export was prohibited under Statutory Instrument 87, presumably to encourage added value in country, and to prevent Belize’s stocks from being exhausted. The ban on export was lifted in 1996. Records from the Forest Department suggest a steady rise in exports over the years, peaking in early 2012. China’s import data reflects this trend and very clearly shows where the vast majority of rosewood has ended up. Considerable value is added in China through production of veneers and high-end furniture. Chinese companies make a fat profit. Belize is left with a fraction of the money it could have made, roads are badly damaged by the movement of logging trucks, and forests are heavily degraded.

Between 2010 and 2012, thousands of rosewood flitches were hauled from the forests of Toledo. Some of this lumber was legally harvested, either under a short or long-term license, or under the petty permit system. The permit system was widely abused, and a great deal of this lumber was taken illegally, without permission from anyone. It is a fact that regardless of allegations of inherent corruption, the Belize Forest Department simply do not have the resources to manage or monitor felling of trees and movement of lumber on such a vast scale. The market eventually became flooded. With so much rosewood lumber available, the value per board foot dropped, and in many cases, the amount paid to the logger was also reduced. Some of those loggers came from Belize’s most poverty-stricken communities. Were they even aware that their activities were illegal?

Allowing the export of vast quantities of raw lumber is a major driver of unsustainable logging; unsustainable logging damages forest ecosystems; and damaged ecosystems are bad news for the human population. Tighter control of harvesting and export is the only way to deal with such issues. It would have been impossible for the Forest Department to even begin to regulate trade in rosewood at a time when logging and export was such a free-for-all. The moratorium provides the Forest Department with a window to assess the situation on the ground. Those who had lumber stockpiled were permitted a short time in which to have it properly assessed and exported, with the appropriate royalties paid to the Government.

But a moratorium can only do so much. Without the appropriate resources to enforce laws, legislation can become next-to-useless. Since logging season re-opened in mid-October this year, there have been several incidents of illegal logging. Some effort has been made to deal with the law-breakers. It is a fact that neither the Forest Department nor the Police have sufficient, committed, appropriately equipped staff on the ground to put up a strong fight against organized, well-financed illegal logging operations. This needs to change.

How many rosewood trees are left standing in the forests of Toledo? No one knows for certain, and until such time as the Forest Department completes an inventory, the question will remain unanswered. A few facts are very clear; in Belize, rosewood is confined to a small area; if logging and export recommences and reaches the same level as seen over the past two years, commercial stocks are unlikely to last more than 20 years. This would be the final nail in the rosewood coffin. The remaining stumps, seedlings and saplings are not likely to be commercially useful for perhaps 20–40 years. In other words, the short-sighted, short-term thinking of the few could ruin the potential long-term financial gain of many.

The moratorium was an essential and long-overdue step on the long road towards sustainable management of rosewood. Belize is a nation founded on the exploitation of its timber resources. The Forest Department was established in 1935 to oversee a more organized approach to logging. Several decades later, scientific data suggests that in order to preserve the health of forest ecosystems (and in turn the health of the human population) forestry must be not just organized but also sustainable. This can be a turning point for forestry in Belize. The country finally has a Minister who genuinely cares about the environment and can steer the Forest Department in the right direction.

The future of rosewood in Belize will depend on many things. Above all it will depend on the continuing political will to protect the species and ensure that future generations of Belizeans can also benefit from the use of this increasingly valuable timber.

#457887 - 02/12/13 09:35 AM Re: Rosewood in Belize: the truth behind the smoke [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 12,196
elbert Offline
elbert  Offline
If he wants to send a more effective message burn the truck also!

The Dive Shops Daily Blog
#457891 - 02/12/13 10:18 AM Re: Rosewood in Belize: the truth behind the smoke [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 5,469
ScubaLdy Offline
ScubaLdy  Offline
How about locking up the criminals who are in charge of the cutting? This was not rough timber - it was cut into lumber; obviously milled. How about closing down the mill? I can 'almost' understand' destroying the wood but it could have been used to build something important - like a class room. The lawbreakers were not harmed by this destruction.

Take only pictures leave only bubbles
#457897 - 02/12/13 12:05 PM Re: Rosewood in Belize: the truth behind the smoke [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,434
Katie Valk Offline
Katie Valk  Offline
We should not be exporting raw wood, period. We should have a furniture industry

Belize based travel specialist
#457899 - 02/12/13 12:33 PM Re: Rosewood in Belize: the truth behind the smoke [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Nov 2012
Posts: 316
robvee Offline
robvee  Offline
Yep the Hickory of Belize !!!

#457900 - 02/12/13 12:36 PM Re: Rosewood in Belize: the truth behind the smoke [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 5,469
ScubaLdy Offline
ScubaLdy  Offline
Kathie - right on!

Take only pictures leave only bubbles
#462065 - 04/10/13 05:08 AM Re: Rosewood in Belize: the truth behind the smoke [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,785
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Rosewood Amnesty: GOB Giving Green Light To Those Who "Ran Red"

Last night PLUS TV out of Belmopan broke the news that thousands of board feet of confiscated Rosewood were on the move from the Forestry Department Compound in the Capital. Valencia’s trucking out of Orange Walk had been hired to haul the logs – where to, no one knows for sure. But late this evening, Government sent out a release saying that it has a plan for all that Rosewood – and it’s a controversial one.

Forty minutes ago, the Government release was issued; it says, quote: “The Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development has decided to allow the sale/export of already harvested rosewood over the period 8th – 26th April, 2013 to avoid the complete loss of value.”

The release does not say who will benefit from the proceeds from the sale, if it will derive to government, or to the red-light running exporters, or whether, as some sources suggest, it will be shared.

According to our information, Government at one point entertained the plan to act as seller and export the Rosewood, presumably to China where it fetches top dollar. Under that plan, Government would then receive the proceeds of those sales - and this is the controversial part – then share that money in an even split with the companies it was confiscated from – companies such as Kambokin that had two twenty foot containers confiscated from a compound near the customs department in January of this year. Again, that is just a report, and the release gives no indication of what the revenue arrangement will be – in fact, it lends itself to the interpretation that the owners – form whom it was confiscated – will be doing the exporting.

But whatever the case, the highly unusual development is sure to raise many eyebrows and excite some level of public outrage because basically it would giving a green light to those Rosewood dealers who’ve been running red’s since the Rosewood moratorium was put into effect 13 months ago.

This 19 day amnesty on Rosewood exports will allow all those exporters who have illegally extracted Rosewood during the moratorium to bring out their fitches from where they’ve been stashing them and rush to have them exported during the amnesty period. Apparently, as the PLUS TV footage shows they will also get back all that Rosewood which was confiscated. There is no word at this time on whether the amount confiscated at the Benque Viejo border will be included in this lot – since that was forfeited to the Forestry Department three weeks ago.

We await further details on this very unusual decision by government – a decision which seems to bear the heavy influence of politically well-connected Rosewood dealers.

It should be noted that after the amnesty they’ll have a harder time exporting Rosewood since it has now come under CITES protection – a level of international scrutiny that even Cabinet connects cannot so easily overcome.

Channel 7

When minister’s away, the Rosewood Kings getaway

The harvesting of rosewood is illegal and there is a moratorium in place since March sixteenth, 2012, but that has not stopped the highly lucrative trade to markets in China, where there is a huge demand for the precious hardwood. On Monday afternoon, confiscated flitches of rosewood held at the Forestry compound in Belmopan were loaded in two containers. By this afternoon, the containers were moved from Belmopan but its destination has not been confirmed, nor who ordered its release and that is raising eyebrows. News Five’s Isani Cayetano went looking for answers today.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The departure of two, forty-foot containers of rosewood flitches from the Forest Department in Belmopan at midday is raising more questions tonight than it has yielded answers, since the media caught wind of movement on the compound on Monday afternoon.  The cargo is presumably the contents of a sizeable confiscation on February seventh, involving fifteen thousand board feet of rosewood belonging to Kambokin Enterprises.  That import, a twenty, as well as a forty-foot container, was seized at the Western Border, where it was being housed by Belize Engineering Ltd.  The shipment was subsequently relocated to Belmopan.  There the logs remained under security until they were loaded by a team of workmen into containers owned by Little Belize Exporters Ltd., a concern registered to Orange Walk businessman Wilbert Valencia.  When News Five spoke with Valencia by phone earlier today, he told us that he was only contracted to remove the lumber from the Forest Department’s compound.  Who authorized the taking away of the rosewood is still unclear and where it is destined for is another matter altogether.  In the past, Valencia has conducted business with customs broker Raul Cawich for logistics pertaining to the export of rosewood.  Cawich has disavowed any knowledge of the freight or its accompanying paperwork, stating instead that he has not been contacted by anyone, including Wilbert Valencia, for the job.  In the absence of Forest Minister Lisel Alamilla and Chief Forestry Officer Wilbur Sabido, who are both out of the country, News Five attempted to get a comment from Chief Executive Officer Dr. Wendell Parham but we were told that he was in a meeting.  Similarly, we tried contacting Deputy Chief Forest Officer Marcelo Windsor to find out about the suspicious transaction.  He too was unavailable for comment. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Channel 5

#462086 - 04/10/13 07:10 AM Re: Rosewood in Belize: the truth behind the smoke [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,434
Katie Valk Offline
Katie Valk  Offline
This is why Min Alamilla decided to burn the wood in Toledo-so that criminal Ministers could not steal and sell. Which Ministers in Orange Walk. Mmmm, a normal one or other?

Last edited by Katie Valk; 04/10/13 07:11 AM.

Belize based travel specialist
#462093 - 04/10/13 07:57 AM Re: Rosewood in Belize: the truth behind the smoke [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 5,469
ScubaLdy Offline
ScubaLdy  Offline
Why export it? Use it here in Belize for something important - like a hospital here on the island. It could be a living testimonial to something being done honestly. Even dedicate it to the Minister who has the where-with-all to have the courage to stand up to the creeps.
No way should any money go to the criminals who harvested or milled the lumber.

Take only pictures leave only bubbles
#462152 - 04/11/13 04:57 AM Re: Rosewood in Belize: the truth behind the smoke [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,785
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
Sale and export of illegal rosewood


BELIZE CITY, Wednesday, April 10, 2013 – Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA) views the sudden announcement of an amnesty for sale and export of illegal rosewood flitches as a ‘knife in the back’ and contrary to the sworn duty of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to protect and safeguard our natural resources.

The timing of this amnesty – with the Minister and Chief Forest Officer out of the country – is beyond suspicious. Despite Cabinet having taken an official decision to impose the moratorium, this amnesty went into effect in the absence of Minister Alamilla but it appears to have been government-sanctioned. This appearance of corruption in a Cabinet decision, turning back on its previous one, reflects badly on the collective responsibility of Cabinet to Belizeans. Furthermore, those left in charge appear not to be interested in monitoring the exporters coming to the Forestry Department compound in Belmopan for the next two weeks to cart off their ill-gotten gains. We can only say that someone appears to be interested in collecting their profits at the cost of national pride and dignity.

Officially, none of these harvested flitches of rosewood were properly retrieved and therefore are all illegal. What the Ministry appears to be doing is legitimizing this trade to the detriment of the people of Belize and contrary to their expressed wishes.

More importantly, there is no explanation given of how this batch of rosewood differs from previous confiscations. What is so special about it? For that matter, what happens to those previous batches that have not already been destroyed or otherwise sold?

The Ministry should make someone available to give a proper explanation and to assure that no skullduggery is committed on their watch. The rosewood exporters should not be allowed to reap profits from these legitimized sales. Instead, these profits should be put in a special fund for a rosewood replanting program to plant new rosewood to replace those lost.
Finally, get the Police and other organizations involved in monitoring this trade and seeing to it that Belize gets its just and proper value for its resources.

Proper caretaking is needed to ensure that our children and children’s children benefit from this son of our soil.
Geovannie Brackett
President, COLA

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