Concerns over illegal Logging in Southern Belize

Posted By: Short

Concerns over illegal Logging in Southern Belize - 07/06/11 06:20 AM

July 05, 2011

Illegal logging has been a problem throughout Belize, and today the Leader of the People’s National Party, Will Mahia expressed his concerns over the issue. Mahia first raised the concern on Facebook and the posting has been gathering a huge response with varying opinions on the issue. Late this evening Mahia told Love News that illegal logging, particularly the harvest of Rose Wood is become a fast growing problem in the Toledo District.

Will Maheia – Leader, PNP
“I am very much concerned about the amount of natural resources, in this case rosewood that is leaving the district and I have been asking questions and nobody seems to have answers. Right now at the Forestry Department there is a big semi trailer truck that was confiscated filled with rosewood that was not stamped which means it was cut illegally and we cannot get any answers from the Forestry Department and it is a big concern to me as a Belizean and somebody who is looking out for the interest of the District. The fact of the matter is that everywhere you turn in this district, rosewood is leaving the district and there is no sustainability in the way they are cutting it, in plans in place, it is like a free for all. I would say that the majority of it is cut illegally. The Forest Department in Punta Gorda, the Forest Officer told us that he had received word from Belmopan that he cannot issue any comment on the log that is presently at the Forest compound in Toledo.”
Posted By: Short

Re: Concerns over illegal Logging in Southern Belize - 07/07/11 04:33 AM

July 06, 2011

Yesterday Love News began coverage of the illegal logging of Rosewood in the Toledo District. Love News spoke with Leader of the Peoples National Party, Wil Maheia who said that the situation is becoming a growing problem in the district, adding that they do not see much being done on the part of the Forestry Department to address the matter. Today Love News spoke with Wilber Sabido, Forest Officer at the Forestry Department. Sabido confirmed the reports of the confiscation of a shipment of Rosewood. He says forest officers intercepted a container loaded with rosewood in the Machaca Area in the Toledo District on Friday last week.

Wilber Sabido – Forest Officer
“In total we have estimated about 7,000 board feet of Rosewood. In terms of market value or the sale value of that material, generally a board foot of Rosewood sells anywhere between four and five dollars. We confiscated it on Friday of last week. We gave the individual ample time to demonstrate to us if the material was actually cut via a permit or via a licence that had been issued. The individual could not provide us with any such documentation so what we have done is to initiate a process where we are looking to charge the individual. The Forest Department retains the material. In fact we just today we finished measuring the material that we have confiscated and afterwards the material is disposed of and then it enters the local market.”

Sabido says that while the department is pressing charges on the person found in possession of the wood, he said they are not yet releasing the name of the individual. He also admitted that indeed, illegal logging of Rosewood in the area has become more prevalent over the past two years and this has been due to an increase demand outside Belize.

Wilber Sabido – Forest Officer
“Several reasons that has happened is because there seems to have been an increase demand of that particular specie in the Chinese market and certainly the fact that the resource is relatively easy available makes it something that really attracts people who have the chain saws to be able to access the forest and convert the trees into what we call “flitches” for easy transportation. Obviously the socio economic conditions in the area are also factors that really have fuelled the increase in illegal logging especially in the Toledo District. What we have done in the past 18 months when we became aware that because of the fact that the population of Rosewood exist only in the Toledo District, we immediately began putting limits on the volume of Rosewood that could actually be cut and what eventually move towards and we are at that point now is that we have informed the individuals that cut Rosewood that there is a moratorium on the exportation of Rosewood. The majority of the Rosewood that is cut from the forest in Toledo actually has some export market destination. Apart from the imposition of a moratorium, we are also looking to encourage those individuals who want to export Rosewood that they need to invest in value added products because when the material is exported, it is actually exported in raw form and it is in its most basic form, in other words not much investment has been made in converting the timber into a product for the export market. Originally we had a system where if any individual or group of individuals who want to cut not only Rosewood but any timber resource, they would need to get endorsement from the Village Council and Alcalde before we would even consider them for a permit or licence and that process we continue to encourage.”

There are only three department officers stationed at the Machaca Area leading to additional difficulty in intercepting illegal loggers. These same officers are also tasked with monitoring at least thirty six villages in the District. However, Sabido says they are adding increased man power by adding police and BDF personnel in the routine field visits throughout the Toledo District. Today, Love News received additional information that makes a number of allegations against the department and even added that an exclusive license was given to a relative of the Minister of Natural Resources, Gaspar Vega. Sabido denies the latter and spoke on allegations of corruption at the department in the Toledo District.

Wilber Sabido – Forest Officer
“Insofar as licences are concerned, first the logging season has expired it expired on June 15 and it actually goes from October 15 to June 15 of every year. I know of two long term community licences that have been issued, one to the Conejo Village and the other to Boom Creek Village. The licences were actually issued on the basis of a long term forest management plan that was developed by those communities. There are other individuals that had been given licences however those licences are also for the extraction of not only Rosewood but other species an d those licences were issued for them to log within privately held areas. On the issue of alleged corruption I do take that particular allegation much more seriously because it is a serious allegation and in a recent visit that the Deputy Prime Minster made in the Toledo District earlier this year he basically gave a response on that, that there is zero tolerance for that and if there is any individual that has proof of that they ought to step forward as responsible citizens and the Forest Department, the CEO in the Ministry of Natural Resources and he as the Minister would take that on seriously.”

Reports reaching Love News say that buyers in the Toledo district are paying anywhere between three dollars seventy-five cents to four dollars per board foot of Rosewood.
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