Singapore convicts rosewood trader in historic CITES seizure [04/26/2017]
- Late last month a high court in Singapore found Wong Wee Keong guilty of importing rosewood from Madagascar in 2014 in violation of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). - Environmental groups are heralding the ruling, which reversed the decision of a lower court and sidestepped conflicting claims about the legality of the shipment by Malagasy authorities. - The outsized shipment to Singapore was larger than all of the other seizures of rosewood in the world, combined, over the past decade.
Paying for healthcare with trees: win-win for orangutans and communities [03/28/2017]
- In 2016, the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) was declared Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Orangutan habitat is fast disappearing due to deforestation caused by industrial agriculture, forest fires, slash and burn agriculture, and logging. - One of the most important remaining P. pygmaeus populations, with roughly 2,000 individuals, is in Indonesia’s Gunung Palung National Park. Alam Sehat Lestari (Healthy Nature Everlasting, or ASRI) is partnering with U.S. NGO Health in Harmony and effectively reducing illegal logging in the park via a unique healthcare offering. - When communities were asked what was needed to stop them from logging conserved forest, the people answered: affordable healthcare and organic farming. Expensive medical costs were forcing people to log to pay medical bills, while unsustainable agricultural practices depleted the soil, necessitating the use of costly fertilizers. - The two NGOs opened an affordable health clinic, and later a hospital, offering discounted medical service to communities that stop logging. Forest guardians, recruited in every village, encourage people to curb deforestation. They also monitor illegal activity and reforestation, while offering training in organic farming methods. And the program works!
Aggressive forest protection needed to meet US climate goals [03/21/2017]
- Despite how critical forest protection is to meeting climate goals, it is not currently seen as a climate priority in the U.S. - In fact, the report notes, some government and forestry industry actors even promote increased logging as a solution to climate change, which has led to the forests of the coastal Southern United States becoming the largest source of wood pellet exports to Europe in recent years. - Forest disturbance from logging in the Southern U.S. occurs at four times the rate that it does in the rainforests of South America, the authors of the report discovered, which is reducing the ability of the country’s forests to act as carbon sinks by at least 35 percent.
Denmark prohibits companies from selling Myanmar teak on European Union markets [03/20/2017]
- The ruling comes after evidence that Danish timber company Keflico had violated the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) was brought to light by the Environmental Investigation Agency, a London-based NGO. - According to a statement issued by Denmark’s Environmental Protection Agency, audits were carried out at seven Danish companies that had imported teak from Myanmar in the last four years. - The results of the audits showed that authorities in Myanmar had not provided adequate documentation of where the timber for any given purchase came from and whether or not it was legally harvested, thereby making it virtually impossible for Danish companies to avoid importing illegal wood.
Communities in Mexico step up to protect a disappearing forest [03/16/2017]
- Comprising around 1.9 million hectares in Mexico and Guatemala, the Lacandon is regarded as one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. But Mexico's Lacandon rainforest is experiencing significant deforestation activity, and the Guatemalan side of the ecosystem is even more affected. - In Mexico, communities in and around the Lacandon are developing initiatives to help protect the forest through ecotourism. - Movement leaders say they have seen success from their work in parts of the ecosystem, but they urge the need for institutionalization of their model and more collaboration with Guatemala to protect the Lacandon as a whole.
Current regulations unable to control trade in products from slave labor, expert says [03/13/2017]
- Kevin Bales is co-founder of the advocacy group Free the Slaves and professor of Contemporary Slavery at the University of Nottingham in the UK. - In his recent book, Blood and Earth, Bales discusses his research to uncover connections between labor rights and the protection of nature. - In this interview with Repórter Brasil, Bales discusses how current regulation is largely unable to stem the trade in products manufactured through slave labor and recommends governments devote more resources to combatting it. He also highlights a few promising developments that are helping to boost corporate transparency.
Suppliers of Lowe’s in the US and Walmart in Brazil linked to slave labor in the Amazon [03/13/2017]
- Slave labor-analogous conditions were revealed by investigation of logging camps in Pará, Brazil. - A supply chain investigation of the timber harvested through these camps has found links to markets in Brazil and the U.S. - Major retailers with links to intermediaries that sourced wood from logging camps found to use slave labor practices include Lowe's, Timber Holdings, and Brazilian Walmart stories. Timber Holdings has used wood from Brazil in major renovation projects for New York's Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park.
Slave labor in the Amazon: Risking lives to cut down the rainforest [03/13/2017]
- Investigations show conditions analogous to slave labor as defined by Brazilian law are not uncommon at small logging camps in Pará, Brazil. - A recent bust of one labor camp by a team headed by the Ministry of Labor led to the rescue several men living in substandard conditions. Interviews of the men and observations by Repórter Brasil indicate their lives were forcibly put at-risk at the camp. - Workers from other logging camps came forward to report instances of nonpayment, and being threatened by guns when they demanded their pay. - Although the job is life threatening and illegal, and wages aren't guaranteed, workers report often having no other choice but to work at the logging camps.
Investigation reveals slave labor conditions in Brazil’s timber industry [03/13/2017]
- The report was the culmination of an investigation into slave labor practices in the state of Pará’s timber industry led by the Integrated Action Network to Combat Slavery (RAICE). - The investigation found several conditions used by Brazilian law to define slave labor were occurring at logging camps, including forced work, debt bondage, isolation, exhausting working hours and life-threatening activities. - According to the report, workers at the camp often felt forced into illegal logging because of dire economic circumstances.
Big data timber exchange partners with FSC in Brazil [03/13/2017]
- BVRio pulls together data on the pricing, supply chain and certification of timber and wood products through its Responsible Timber Exchange. - Since opening in November 2016, the exchange has fielded more than 400 offers for 5 million cubic meters of timber. - The partnership with the Forest Stewardship Council is aimed at bolstering the market for certified forest products.
Successful forest protection in DRC hinges on community participation [03/12/2017]
- Forest covers at least 112 million hectares of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Studies from 2013 show that subsistence agriculture and the need for firewood threaten DRC’s forests, and new investments in the countries forests by industrial outfits could contribute to the problem. - DRC’s leaders have signed on to international agreements and have begun to receive millions of dollars to finance projects aimed at keeping DRC’s forests standing, protecting global climate and reducing poverty.
Building environmental community and transparency through maps [03/07/2017]
- A new online mapping platform offers spatial data, mapping tools, hosting space, and advice/consulting services to help increase transparency in land use decision-making. - Map for Environment was created to be an open repository for environmental data with simple data management and map publishing tools, especially for non-technical users. - The platform provides the space and the tools for a decentralized community to share data and produce maps with minimal cost and hassle; for this to succeed, the environmental movement must embrace open-data principles and make critical data more broadly available.
Forests provide a nutritional boon to some communities, research shows [03/02/2017]
- The new study, across 24 countries, shows a wide range in the variability of how communities use forests for food. - The nutrients provided by wild fruits, vegetables, game and fish are critical to the nutritional health of some communities and should play a role in decisions about land usage. - Land-use decisions should factor in the importance of forest foods to some communities, say the authors.
Environmental costs, benefits and possibilities: Q&A with anthropologist Eben Kirksey [02/28/2017]
- The environmental humanities pull together the tools of the anthropologist and the biologist. - Anthropologist Eben Kirksey has studied the impact of mining, logging and infrastructure development on the Mee people of West Papua, Indonesia, revealing the inequalities that often underpins who benefits and who suffers as a result of natural resource extraction. - Kirksey reports that West Papuans are nurturing a new form of nationalism that might help bring some equality to environmental change.
The Republic of Congo: on the cusp of forest conservation [02/27/2017]
- The Republic of Congo’s high forest cover and low annual deforestation rates of just over 0.05 percent have led to the country being named as a priority country by the UN’s REDD+ program. - The country has numerous protected areas and has signed agreements to certify the sustainability and legality of its timber industry. - Skeptics caution that more needs to be done to address corruption and protect the country’s forests, a third of which are still relatively untouched.
Saving fairy possums could imperil other Australian wildlife [02/25/2017]
- Fairy possums are dependent on montane ash forests in Victoria's central highlands. But these forests are threatened by fire and logging. - A severe fire season in 2009 led to a more than 40 percent decline in fairy possums. - Protected area expansion is seen as one way to help fairy possums survive. But a recent study finds if reserves are expanded with solely the fairy possum in mind, other species could lose out because their habitats may not overlap. - The researchers say their analysis technique could be used generally to more effectively plan protected areas.
Forest Stewardship Council cuts ties with Austrian timber giant [02/23/2017]
- A year-long investigation by the FSC found Holzindustrie Schweighofer was illegally sourcing wood from Romania – including from national parks. In response, the FSC put the company on probation, a move seen as a slap on the hand by critics. - On February 17, the FSC announced its intention to fully disassociate from Schweighofer. Re-association is possible in the future. - Romania is home to Europe's last old-growth lowland forest, which is losing its tree cover to deforestation activities.
Study finds more than 350k trees illegally felled in Madagascar’s protected areas in five-year span [02/23/2017]
- More than 350,000 trees were felled between March 2010 and March 2015, the study states, despite being in areas that have been granted official protected status. - At least one million logs were illegally exported from Madagascar during those years — that’s more than 150,000 metric tons-worth of logs, per the study. - The primary target of illegal loggers is rosewood and palisander, both species belonging to the genus Dalbergia, though other precious hardwood species like ebony (in the genus Diospyros) are targeted as well.
This new primate is a ‘giant’ among tiny bush babies [02/22/2017]
- The Angolan dwarf galago is about 17 to 20 centimeters in length (with an additional 17 to 24 centimeters long tail). - It has a very distinctive call: a loud chirping crescendo of longer notes, followed by a fading twitter. - Scientists have named the new species Galagoides kumbirensis after the Kumbira forest it was first observed in.
Loving apes celebrated this Valentine’s Day [02/14/2017]
- The IUCN estimates that as few as 15,000 bonobos remain in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Bonobos, unlike chimpanzees and humans, live in matriarchal societies and have never been observed killing a member of their own species. - The California Senate passed a resolution stating that Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) would also be known as World Bonobo Day beginning in 2017. - Bushmeat hunting, habitat destruction and the wildlife trade are the greatest threats to the survival of bonobos.
Chain saw injuries in Myanmar tied to illegal logging [02/12/2017]
- The dangers of chain saw use in Myanmar are compounded by a lack of training and protective gear in rural areas where inexperienced loggers can end up seriously injured or dead. - Though a license is required to own a chain saw, one can also be rented fairly easily. - A chain saw can cut down a tree many times faster than a hand-held saw, speeding up the movement of illegal timber from Myanmar to its main export destination, China.
Audio: An in-depth look at Mongabay’s collaboration with The Intercept Brasil [02/07/2017]
- Branford is a regular contributor to Mongabay who has been reporting from Brazil since 1979 when she was with the Financial Times and then the BBC. - One of the articles in the series resulted in an official investigation by the Brazilian government before it was even published — and the investigators have already recommended possible reparations for an indigenous Amazonian tribe. - We also round up the top news of the past two weeks.
Scientists launch expedition to find missing monkeys [02/02/2017]
- Vanzolini's bald-faced saki hasn't been seen since scientists first discovered it in western Brazil in the 1930s. - Navigating along the Rio Juruá and its tributaries, the expedition will be the first comprehensive biological survey of the region. - Its international team of researchers hopes to uncover the saki, as well as other yet-undocumented species, while calling conservation attention to the river and surrounding rainforest.
Birds wanted: Recovering forests need avian assist [02/02/2017]
- Clearing swaths of rainforests can permanently drive away or kill off birds that are important partners in the regeneration of the forest, the study finds. - The study surveyed 330 sites in the Brazilian Amazon, turning up 472 species of birds. - The analyses demonstrate that recovering forests don’t have the diversity of birds needed to ensure their survival. - The authors say that their findings point to a need to preserve standing forests, even if they’re heavily degraded.
Honduran politicians, US aid implicated in killings of environmentalists [02/01/2017]
- An investigation by NGO Global Witness finds Honduras has one of the one of the world's highest levels of violence against environmental activists, with more than 120 killed since 2010. - Investigators say government corruption surrounding development projects like dams, mines, and oil palm plantations are largely to blame. - Their report also highlights international finance institutions as playing a role in conflicts surrounding hydroelectric projects, as well as U.S. aid to Honduran military and police forces, which have been implicated in numerous human rights violations in the country.
Introducing Mongabay news alerts [02/01/2017]
Now Mongabay readers can keep up-to-date on the latest conservation and environmental science developments by subscribing to our free topic-based news alerts.
Forest protection funds flow to DRC despite ‘illegal’ logging permits [02/01/2017]
- Since signing agreements with the government of Norway and the Central African Forests Initiative, Greenpeace says leaders in Congo have approved two concessions on 4,000 square kilometers of forest. - DRC expects to receive tens of millions of dollars from CAFI and the Norwegian government for forest protection and sustainable development. - Greenpeace and other watchdog groups have called for an investigation into how these concessions are awarded and an overhaul of donor funding.
Logging in certified concessions drove intact forest landscape loss in Congo Basin [01/30/2017]
- A study published in the journal Science Advances this month found that, between 2000 and 2013, the global area of intact forest landscape declined by 7.2 percent. - Certification of logging concessions, which aims to ensure sustainable forest management practices, had a “negligible” impact on slowing the fragmentation of intact forest landscapes (IFLs) in the Congo Basin, according to the study. - According to Corey Brinkema, president of the Forest Stewardship Council US, the findings of the study may be noteworthy, but they don’t apply to how FSC operates today.
Guyana focuses deforestation prevention efforts on conservation and management [01/24/2017]
- Almost 90 percent of Guyana’s roughly 750,000 residents live in coastal areas outside of the forests, which contributes to the preservation of the country’s intact forest landscape. - Over the past two decades, deforestation rates in Guyana have ranged from between 0.02 percent to 0.079 percent – far less than many other tropical countries. - Gold mining appears to be the biggest threat to Guyana's forests, driving approximately 85 percent of the country's deforestation in 2014.
New species of poison frog discovered in Amazonian slopes of Andes in southeastern Peru [01/17/2017]
- The species was found in just nine locales in the buffer zones of Manu National Park and the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, at the transition between montane forests and the lowlands, from 340 to 850 meters (1,115 to 2,788 feet) above sea level. - The region that the Amarakaeri poison frog calls home is considered one of the most biodiverse on the planet for herpetofauna, but it is also threatened by human activities, including agriculture, gold mining, logging, and an illegally constructed road meant for the transport of fuel for illegal miners and loggers in the area. - Based on IUCN Red List criteria, the research team that made the discovery propose that A. shihuemoy likely qualifies as Near Threatened.
‘Last frontiers of wilderness’: Intact forest plummets globally [01/13/2017]
- More than 7 percent of intact forest landscapes, defined as forest ecosystems greater than 500 square kilometers in area and showing no signs of human impact, disappeared between 2000 and 2013. - In the tropics, the rate of loss appears to be accelerating: Three times more IFLs were lost between 2011 and 2013 as between 2001 and 2003. - The authors of the study, published January 13 in the journal Science Advances, point to timber harvesting and agricultural expansion as the leading causes of IFL loss.
NASA releases images of dramatic deforestation in Cambodia [01/13/2017]
- Cambodia lost around 1.59 million hectares of tree cover between 2001 and 2014, and just 3 percent remains covered in primary forest. - This deforestation has led to the decline of wildlife habitat and the disappearance of tigers from the country – as well as the release of millions of tons of CO2. - The NASA imagery shows the rapid development of rubber plantations over the past decade. - Research attributes the jump in Cambodian deforestation rates primarily to changes in the global rubber price and an increase in concession deals between the government and plantation and timber companies.
Smuggled to death: how loopholes and lax enforcement have sealed the fate of Siamese rosewood [01/05/2017]
- Thailand's Thap Lan National Park is on the frontline of the deadly battle against the illegal rosewood trade, but the root cause of the problem lies outside the park's borders. - Siamese rosewood has been listed under CITES Appendix II since 2013, but loopholes in trade rules and poor oversight allowed the trade to persist. - A key loophole was closed at last year’s CITES CoP17. Now, campaigners fear for the future of lookalike species like Burmese rosewood and padauk.
No let-up in Thailand’s relentless, violent Siamese rosewood poaching [01/04/2017]
- Rosewood, famed for its blood red hue, is the world's most trafficked wildlife product. It accounts for a third of all seizures recorded by the UNODC from 2005-2014. - Most of the valuable Siamese rosewood has already been logged out in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, leaving Thailand's remaining stands prey to cross-border incursions by poaching gangs. - Seven wildlife rangers died in 2015 in incidents related to the Siamese rosewood trade, along with an unknown number of poachers, but the trade continues unabated.
As forests in East Africa disappear, so does an industry of artisans [01/03/2017]
- At a Kenya-Tanzania border encampment of woodcarvers, there are just over three dozen carvers compared to 2,000 fifteen years ago. - Woodcarvers say problems have been exacerbated by a crackdown on illegal logging and increased enforcement of taxes for wood imports at the border. - Many carvers plan to leave the industry altogether, rather than try to survive on current low income.
Sudden sale may doom carbon-rich rainforest in Borneo [01/02/2017]
- Forest Management Unit 5 encompasses more than 101,000 hectares in central Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. - The area’s steep slopes and rich forests provide habitat for the Bornean orangutan and other endangered species and protect watersheds critical to downstream communities. - Conservation groups had been working with the government and the concession holder to set up a concept conservation economy on FMU5, but in October, the rights were acquired by Priceworth, a wood product manufacturing company.
The year in tropical rainforests: 2016 [01/01/2017]
- After 2015's radical advancements in transparency around tropical forests between improved forest cover monitoring systems and corporate policies on commodity sourcing, progress slowed in 2016 with no major updates on tropical forest cover, resistance from several governments in releasing forest data, and some notable backtracking on zero deforestation commitments. - But even without the pan-tropical updates, we know that deforestation increased sharply in the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for the world's largest area of tropical forest. - Low commodity prices may have bought some relief for forests.
Illegal logging shows little sign of slowing [12/30/2016]
- The report was produced by a dozens of scientists and is the most comprehensive analysis of illegal logging to date. - It finds organized crime and a lack of land tenure for local communities to be big drivers of illicit timber extraction in tropical countries around the world. - Research indicates around a third of all tropical timber traded globally may come from illegal forest conversion. - Those affiliated with the report underline the need for more cooperation between countries and sectors, as well as the development of effective policies, in the fight against illegal logging.
93% of world’s roadless areas are less than half the size of Cincinnati [12/19/2016]
- The study used crowd-sourced data covering 36 million kilometers to map the extent of roads around the world. - The researchers found roads have essentially fragmented the Earth's land surface into 600,000 pieces. Only 7 percent of roadless areas are larger than 100 square kilometers, and only 9 percent of these are protected. - The study's authors and an outside expert caution that the area affected by roads is likely much higher, since some regions are not thoroughly mapped. - The study recommends governments place higher importance on preserving the world's remaining roadless areas.
UK greenheart restriction could put pressure on Guyana’s logging economy [12/15/2016]
- Greenheart is one of the toughest and most durable woods known to man, and is particularly suited to marine and freshwater based applications. The UK instituted a ban on its import earlier this year. - Over the last four years, greenheart exports generated $27 million for the Guyanese economy. - Greenheart represents over 18 percent of Guyana’s logging industry production, of which timber is a major export earner – it brought in $45.6 million just last year.
Brazilian state invites private companies to run Atlantic Forest parks [12/15/2016]
- São Paulo — Brazil’s wealthiest state and the country’s industrial powerhouse — has turned over the concessions for 25 state parks to the private sector. The parks protect a large portion of the Atlantic Forest, the most threatened biome in Brazil. - Environmentalists worry that these company concessions, granted for 30 years, will lead to greater deforestation, though the government denies this possibility. - Social advocates say that local people who rely on the parks for ecotourism jobs and other employment could easily be excluded from working in the parks by the for-profit companies. - Critics say the law is unconstitutional because the state did not invite environmentalists and the people that would be impacted by the law to participate in discussions of the legislation before it was enacted.
Journalist murdered while investigating illegal logging in Myanmar [12/13/2016]
- A journalist was murdered while investigating illegal logging and timber smuggling in Myanmar. - On Tuesday, Soe Moe Tun, a local reporter with Daily Eleven newspaper, was found "severely beaten" by the side of a highway in the town of Monywa in Myanmar's Sagaing region. - Robbery doesn't appear to be the motive for the killing.
Interpol says corruption in global forestry sector worth $29 billion every year [12/09/2016]
- According to the report, the cost of corruption in the global forestry sector is some $29 billion annually. - Bribery is the most common form of forestry corruption, followed by fraud, abuse of office, extortion, cronyism, and nepotism. - Interpol notes in the report that studies over the last decade have repeatedly shown a strong correlation between levels of corruption, illegal logging, and deforestation rates.
FSC puts timber processor on probation after ‘scathing’ investigation [12/09/2016]
- Holzindustrie Schweighofer is an Austrian company that sources timber from Romania, which contains some of Europe's last tracts of primary forest. - An FSC investigation uncovered evidence of Holzindustrie Schweighofer engaging in activities in Romania that went against FSC certification policy, such as sourcing illegally logged timber. - The investigation's conclusions led its panel to recommend that the company be disassociated from the FSC, but the organization chose instead to put the company on a two-month probation during which time it must fulfill certain conditions. - The move has attracted criticism from Environmental Investigation Agency, which called the decision "shocking."
Brazil pledges ‘largest restoration commitment ever made’ [12/08/2016]
- Proponents of the pledge believe the restoration will help the country meet climate change and conservation targets as well as Brazil’s economy through the development of more productive agricultural lands and new jobs. - Twelve million hectares of forest land is slated for restoration, along with 10 million hectares of farmland and pastures. - The announcement follows a recent uptick in deforestation in the country, which contains 60 percent of the Amazon Rainforest. Deforestation levels in 2015-2016 were up 75 percent over the three-decade low reached in 2012.
Corrupt logging practices in Liberia could mar new era in community forestry [11/29/2016]
- The agreements allow communities to sign contracts with logging companies on their own and entitling them to as much as 55 percent of the revenue stream from logging. - Liberian government officials say that in the past year alone, 128 communities have applied for these forestry permits. - In the remote Garwin chiefdom, one community may have been duped into giving away its land rights and future logging profits.
Timber trading platform aims to increase transparency, legality [11/24/2016]
- The Responsible Timber Exchange, launched November 23 by the organization BVRio, provides buyers with pricing, supply chain and certification information on timber and wood products coming from several countries, as well as FSC- and PEFC-certified suppliers. - It builds on BVRio’s other risk assessment tools, available since 2015 in the form of mobile applications and online software. - The platform’s creators say it will help diminish illegality in the timber sector, which may taint 90 percent of all timber sold.
Major Congo Basin forest conference convenes in Rwanda [11/21/2016]
- The 85-member consortium has met annually since it was first launched in 2002 by then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell. - Congo Basin forests hold more than 25 billion tons of carbon and thousands of plant and animal species. - As the human population grows from the current figure of around 30 million people, more solutions are required to harmonize their needs with those of the plant and animal life that share the space.
Tracking down logging roads in the Congo Basin [11/20/2016]
- Launched in 2015, the Logging Roads Initiative mines 13 years of satellite data in the six countries that hold the Congo Basin – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. - Contributors need only have an Internet connection to plot the locations of roads through timber concessions. - After analysis by volunteers, the data is added to Global Forest Watch as the platform's logging roads layer.
Sweden sets legal precedent with prosecution of Myanmar teak trader [11/15/2016]
- Sweden’s forest agency, Skogsstyrelsen, prosecuted the trader, Almtra Nordic, under the EUTR after an investigation found that the company could not demonstrate who harvested its timber or where it was cut prior to the company purchasing it from the state-operated Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE). - The EUTR, which came into force in 2013, bans the sale of illegal or high-risk wood in EU markets and requires companies to perform the due diligence necessary to ensure their risk of importing illegally logged timber is negligible. - A Swedish administrative court confirmed a previous ruling that MTE’s documentation did not provide adequate proof that a shipment of teak was produced legally because it failed to provide critical information about the logs’ origins, the logging company that harvested them, and whether or not the harvester was in compliance with Myanmar’s forest legislation.
Guyana’s government still dealing with fallout over controversial logging company [11/13/2016]
- The Guyanese government has put a significant focus on cleaning up the failed operations of Baishanlin. - In September 2016, the Guyana Forestry Commission announced in a statement that it would repossess all of Baishanlin’s 627,072 hectares of forestry concessions. - A review of Baishanlin's financial statements reported through a 2015 forensic audit on the Guyana Forestry Commission raised concerns about the company’s ability to operate in the future due to continued losses.
Hunting stymies rainforest regrowth, says a new study [11/10/2016]
- The study compared sites with different degrees of hunting pressure, ranging from a national park to timber concessions. - Areas with fewer large mammals tended to have more rodents, which in turn ate and destroyed more seeds of tree species valuable to the timber industry. - The findings suggest that regulating hunting on timber concessions may help to encourage the regeneration of economically valuable trees.
Brazzaville-issued mining permits dip into Congo’s flagship park [10/31/2016]
- In 2016 the Ministry of Mines and Energy issued at least seven permits that allow companies to prospect or begin mining for gold inside the Republic of Congo’s largest national park. - Odzala-Kokoua became a national park in 2001 by presidential decree, which does not allow mining. - Congo’s pivot toward mineral extraction as an economic development strategy may mean that the government could change the park’s borders to allow mining if it is 'in the public interest.'
Logged but not out: Altered landscapes important for conservation [10/26/2016]
- A study conducted by scientists from Malaysia and England looked at biodiversity in untouched and human-altered habitats on the island of Borneo. - When the researchers looked at large areas, the biodiversity of big mammals in logged forests closely matched what they found in old-growth rainforest. - They concluded that logged forests have substantial value in supporting biodiversity, and these areas should figure into conservation plans.
Illegal Myanmar teak importation widespread to EU, investigation finds [10/19/2016]
- In a two-month undercover investigation, the campaigning NGO Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) found that nine companies in five EU countries had failed to meet the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) for legal importation of Burmese teak from Myanmar. - EIA reports that representatives from several firms admitted that they aren’t able to make sure that the teak they buy comes from legitimate sources. - Two other companies denied the allegations to Mongabay, saying that all wood that they buy in Myanmar has been harvested in compliance with the country’s laws. - EIA contends that all teak from Myanmar for sale in the EU should be considered illegally sourced.
Papua New Guinea activist receives prestigious award for protecting forests [10/18/2016]
- In a statement, the Alexander Soros Foundation said that it had given the annual award to Pavol “for his courage and commitment to protecting his community’s land and forests from the illegal and aggressive operations of one of the world’s largest logging companies.” - Industrial logging is the main driver of forest degradation in the country — and “the majority of timber production in PNG is illegal in some way," according to a 2014 report by Chatham House. - Since 2010, Pavol has been defending the rainforests in his home district of Pomio against the operations of Malaysian conglomerate Rimbunan Hijau, which is responsible for a third of all PNG log exports.
Environmental official murdered in Brazilian Amazon [10/17/2016]
- Luiz Alberto Araújo, head of the Altamira municipal government environmental department in the state of Pará, was gunned down in an execution-style killing last Thursday. 448 environmentalists were killed in Brazil between 2002-2013 — half the total murdered worldwide. - Araújo provided information this year that helped lead to the arrest of a major illegal logging operation led by Antonio José Junqueira Vilela Filho, known as Ajj. - Ajj ran his operation near Altamira for ten years, often only cutting valuable understory trees, and leaving the tallest behind to fool satellites and avoid detection. His operation kept loggers in slave-like conditions. Ajj was fined US$37 million, the largest such fine ever in the Amazon. - Last February, Araújo’s team collected tons of dead fish secretly buried near the newly completed Belo Monte mega-dam, near Altamira. Norte Energia, the company operating the dam, was fined US$11 million for the 16.2 tons of fish illegally killed during the flooding of the dam’s reservoir.
Brazil pledges to cut carbon, but government policies say otherwise [10/06/2016]
- Brazil's Paris Agreement target calls for a carbon emissions reduction of 37 percent by 2025, and 43 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. These reductions are dependent on the nation’s ability to meet its forestry goals. Brazil’s vast forests are vital for carbon storage and for curbing the worst impacts of climate change. - However, Brazil’s government is moving to relax environmental licensing regulations in order to fast track large-scale infrastructure projects, including industrial waterways, dams, highways and railways; and is pursuing a major agribusiness expansion — all of which could work to increase carbon emissions. - In addition, new studies show that Brazil will likely fall well short of the billions in funding needed to meet the country’s ambitious forestry goals which were declared in 2015, just before the Paris Climate Summit. - The continued curbing of Amazon deforestation is key to Brazil’s achievement of its Paris carbon cut targets, but recent news from the Amazon is bad: after years of decreased deforestation rates, forest loss in the Amazon is again on the upswing.
The Myanmar snub-nosed monkey: discovered and immediately endangered [10/04/2016]
- Discovered in 2010 and promptly listed as Critically Endangered, the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey lives only in the remote high forests of Northeast Myanmar, and across the border in China’s Gaoligong Mountain Natural Reserve. There are as few as 260-330 left in the wild. - Hunting, illegal logging and proposed hydropower development, taking place within the context of a simmering civil conflict, threaten to push the species to extinction. - On the plus side, conservationists have already gone a long way toward winning over local communities, getting them to stop hunting the animals; while the government’s approval of a newly proposed national park offers hope that the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey can be preserved.
Victory for forests: Rosewood gets enhanced protection at wildlife summit [10/04/2016]
- Rosewood refers to a large group of deeply-hued, durable timbers used for making expensive furniture as well as musical instruments like guitar. Majority of rosewoods belong to Dalbergia genus. - At a recent conservation meeting, governments voted to include all rosewood species belonging to Dalbergia genus under CITES protection, launching a clampdown on the illegal trade of rosewood. - This increased CITES protection means that all international trade in Dalbergia rosewoods will be subject to trade restrictions.
Russia’s Far East: then and now [10/01/2016]
- Mongabay interviewed Jonathan Slaght, a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, who recently published an annotated translation of the observations of Russian military surveyor Vladimir Arsenyev. - Arsenyev first started exploring the eastern province of Primorye shortly after the vast region became a Russian territory, documenting in great detail the animals and people that inhabited the area. - Since that time, Primorye's forests have been extensively logged and its wildlife hunted. But Russia has made some gains in terms of conservation, with tiger numbers rebounding after hunting nearly wiped them out by the 1940s. - Slaght is currently working with logging companies to close logging roads and make Primorye's forests less accessible for timber extraction and poaching.
Fires driving deforestation in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem [09/29/2016]
- The Leuser Ecosystem is home to one of Indonesia's best remaining rainforests. - The nationally protected area saw its forest cover dwindle from 1,820,726 hectares to 1,816,629 hectares from January-June 2016. - More than 2,000 forest crimes were recorded in Leuser during the same period.
Youth, women, indigenous group pay the price of logging in Kenya [09/16/2016]
- Members of the Ogiek indigenous group have been subject to evictions from their forest homeland as part of a government effort to restore the Mau forest, a critically important watershed where deforestation and illegal logging are persistent problems. - Many Ogiek are impoverished, living in camps for displaced persons. Children with poor access to schooling are turning to work in the region’s thriving timber industry. - A new law giving local communities more control over their forests may improve the situation, but advocates say it needs to go further in specifically addressing the needs of marginalized women and children.
Deforestation puts lives on the line in rural Myanmar [09/12/2016]
- Myanmar is home to almost 5,000 captive elephants, many who work alongside humans in the logging industry. - A 2015 forestry assessment done by the UN found Myanmar had the third highest rate of annual forest reduction in the world. - Lost habitat and a ban have left elephants with less habitat and less work.
Logging roads have long-lasting impacts on forests [08/29/2016]
- Researchers studied logging roads in the U.S., finding that the roads and log landing areas had far denser soil than even logged parts of a forest. - Denser soil can make it less likely for water to be absorbed into the ground, reducing water availability for trees and increasing runoff into streams. This can last years after logging stops. - The authors recommend logging roads be treated and restored after harvest operations end.
The biologist terrifying the US Forest Service and the timber and forest fire-fighting industries [08/29/2016]
- In 1993, the Forest Service began managing for spotted owl habitat, implementing standards intended to reduce logging in owl territories, though cutting trees was still allowed. Since then, populations of spotted owls have crashed all across Forest Service lands in California. - Monica Bond is a wildlife biologist who has spent the past 15 years becoming an expert on spotted owls and forest fires. Earlier this month, she published a paper summarizing all existing science about what happens to spotted owls when forests burn, in the hope of averting a major US forest management policy mistake. - “Everyone expected fire to be bad for owls, but the data showed no effect on survival, reproduction, or site occupancy,” Bond said. “Our data showed fire wasn’t the owl-eating monster we had all believed it to be.”
Timber from Peru 90 percent illegal, finds report issued by U.S. gov’t [08/18/2016]
- The report, released yesterday, found shortcomings of implementation and enforcement of Peru's conservation laws majorly contributed to the export of illegal wood. - The report comes after multiple shipments of illegal timber destined for the U.S. were intercepted. - U.S. officials and conservationists urge Peru's new government to increase efforts to stem the flow of illegally harvested timber.
Researchers say addressing the second D in REDD can benefit the climate while ensuring timber harvests [08/17/2016]
- An international team of researchers analyzed the potential for timber production and carbon emission reductions under two logging techniques over a 40-year period of selective logging. - They published their results this month in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science along with their recommendations that the world address tropical forest degradation — the second “D” in the UN’s REDD+ program (which stands for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation). - Tropical deforestation is responsible for 10 percent of manmade greenhouse gas emissions every year — but that doesn’t include emissions from unnecessarily destructive logging, which also reduces commercial timber stocks and makes forests more prone to burning and clearing, the authors of the study wrote.
In Latin America, environmentalists are an endangered species [08/11/2016]
- At least 185 environmental activists were murdered worldwide in 2015, nearly two-thirds of them in Latin America, according to a June report from the U.K.-based NGO Global Witness. - The reasons for the killings vary, but many are related to a surge in development in remote parts of the region. There, governments have been granting concessions for hydroelectric dams, mines, and other projects, often without consulting indigenous or farming communities already occupying the land. - With little government assistance, some members of these communities are opposing environmental destruction on their own and paying the ultimate price.
‘An optimistic place to start’: Myanmar enacts national logging ban [08/03/2016]
- Myanmar lost 5 percent of its tree cover from 2001 through 2014, with rates scaling upward over that time. - The ban will stave off logging activity for one harvesting season, leaving the country to depend on its reserve timber stockpiles. - Logging activities have been banned in the Pegu Yoma region for 10 years. - Legality concerns remain, with conservationists calling for strict controls over stockpiled timber to ensure illegal harvests aren't laundered through the system.
A dangerous, illegal necessity: charcoal reform comes to Virunga [08/03/2016]
- Like elsewhere in Africa, charcoal has become a big problem for Virunga National Park. Illegal production in the park has been high in recent years as producers try to meet the demand from the millions of impoverished people who depend on charcoal as their only source of fuel. - This demand has led to the destruction of vast swaths of Virunga's forest – as well as the deaths of gorillas and other wildlife that depend on it. - Eco-Makala, a project funded through REDD+, is seeking to reduce the impact of charcoal on the park by establishing tree plantations around it and distributing cookstoves that burn charcoal more efficiently. In the process, the project hopes to ease deforestation-driven CO2 emissions.
Why helping civil society investigate illegal timber is about much more than protecting forests and forest peoples [commentary] [07/25/2016]
- The Timber Investigation Center is a new online resource for activists and communities on how to monitor illegal logging, track wood through supply chains and submit evidence to authorities. - Earthsight, which launched the Timber Investigation Center, is offering to support organizations to carry out relevant investigations and submit evidence, and seeking submissions (a form is available at www.timberinvestigator.info). - This post is a commentary — the views expressed are those of the author.
California regulators approve plan to log 100-year-old redwoods [07/19/2016]
- Gualala Redwood Timber Inc. proposed a 330-acre harvest plan on land it acquired last year in northwest Sonoma County at the mouth of the Gualala River; California regulators granted the plan final approval in early July. - Second-growth redwoods are among the trees slated to be felled, though the 13 largest trees on each acre of land will be left standing, according to the plan. - Environmentalists have said they are already raising the funds necessary to file a lawsuit to stop the plan from going through, however, though they have not said definitely whether or not they will file suit.
Even reduced-impact logging in the Amazon may be unsustainable [07/13/2016]
- Brazil accounts for 85 percent of all native neotropical forest roundlog production, but the sustainability of timber harvests beyond the initial, typically selective rounds of logging, remains poorly understood, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE today. - A team of researchers with the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK studied 824 harvest areas in private and community-owned forests scattered throughout the 124-million-hectare (more than 306-million-acre) Brazilian state of Pará, which is the source of almost half of all timber production in the Brazilian Amazon. - They say their results show that managing yields of selectively-logged forests is crucial for the long-term health of forest biodiversity as well as the financial viability of local industries.
UK takes action against companies importing timber from Cameroon tied to illegal logging [07/01/2016]
- UK authorities have taken action against 14 companies sourcing timber from Cameroon linked to illegal logging. - Six UK companies received a notice of remedial action, seven received a letter of warning, and one company an advice letter, Greenpeace Africa reported yesterday. - Official sanctions will follow if the companies fail to meet the terms laid out by the authorities charged with enforcing the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).
Timber plantation licenses canceled as Mentawai fight off another threat to their traditional lands [07/01/2016]
- It was reported just last month that the Mentawai peoples, who live on Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands about 150 kilometres (93 miles) off the west coast of Sumatra, were facing a new threat to their traditional territories. - Biomas Andalan Energi had received a principle approval letter to create timber plantations on a total of 200 square kilometers (77 square miles) of primary rainforest and indigenous lands on the biggest island of the Mentawai archipelago, Siberut. - A petition started by local NGO Yayasan Citra Mandiri Mentawai collected over 135,000 signatures, demonstrating not just local but international support for the rights of the Mentawai people to protect their islands against exploitation.
Corruption is driving unsustainable, illegal rosewood trade in Cambodia and Laos: Report [06/24/2016]
- The booming Chinese demand for hongmu furniture — luxury items particularly prized by China’s growing middle class — has pushed several rosewood species to the brink. - In response to the crisis provoked by the hongmu trade, Siamese rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensisspp) was listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2013. - But that listing “has largely failed” to protect the species from levels of trade that threaten its survival in the wild because of the actions of Laos and Cambodia — both parties to CITES and key range states for Siamese rosewood — which have “fundamentally undermined efforts to curb trade,” according to the EIA report.
Search warrant executed at Global Plywood over alleged Lacey Act violations [06/20/2016]
- A search warrant executed earlier this month at the premises of California-based Global Plywood and Lumber was issued on the basis of probable cause that the company had smuggled illegal timber into the United States in violation of the Lacey Act, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reports. - The warrant describes proactive collaboration between authorities in the U.S. and Peru to hold players in the illegal timber trade accountable, according to the EIA. - This is the latest in a string of Lacey Act enforcement actions taken by the US government since the law was amended in 2008 to prohibit the trade in illegally forested wood and wood products.
Deadliest year on record for environmental activists [06/20/2016]
- Of the 185 documented cases of environmental activists murdered around the world in 2015, more than half of the killings took place in Brazil (50), the Philippines (33), and Colombia (26). - Indigenous peoples account for roughly five percent of the world's population, but they were the victims in almost 40 percent of the 2015 killings documented by Global Witness. - The mining and extractive industries sector was linked to 42 killings in 10 countries.
Controversial park plans in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve [06/17/2016]
- Mirador-Rio Azul National Park is one of the best-conserved protected areas in Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve, where illegal logging and agriculture, forest fires, looting, and drug trafficking have contributed to deforestation. - A plan to increase tourism to the area and redraw the boundaries of the park and adjacent community forest concessions aims to prevent these threats from compromising the area’s rainforest and important archaeological sites. - Yet the plan has drawn widespread opposition from local communities, environmental NGOs, and the government agency charged with managing the reserve. Opponents say the plan would threaten the region’s ecology, local livelihoods, and community forest concessions that have successfully protected the rainforest.
Canadian logging company sues Greenpeace for racketeering and defamation [06/15/2016]
- The company claims that Greenpeace International, Greenpeace USA, STAND (the San Francisco-based non-profit formerly called ForestEthics), and a number of their associates comprise a “Criminal Enterprise” that has deliberately defamed Resolute and misrepresented its practices and environmental record in order to boost their fundraising efforts. - The company’s complaint includes federal racketeering claims as well as racketeering, trademark, defamation, and tortious interference claims under Georgia law. Resolute is seeking compensatory as well as punitive damages. - Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA’s executive director, said in a statement that Resolute has a history of trying to bury revelations about its environmental practices with threats and baseless lawsuits, but vowed that the group will not to be cowed by the pressure.
From endangered species to commodities: report reveals scale of wildlife crime [06/10/2016]
- The report was produced by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime using data on thousands of species and seizures from more than 120 countries. - It found that trafficking is faciliated by widespread corruption at many levels of government and society, and that crimes are generally not restricted to certain countries. - To better fight wildlife crime, officials urge a stepping-up of enforcement and monitoring, as well as increased transnational cooperation.
Communities lead the way in rainforest conservation in Guatemala [06/09/2016]
- The Maya Biosphere Reserve, which covers one-fifth of Guatemala, is one of the most important tropical forest areas north of the Amazon and contains dozens of ancient Mayan archaeological sites. - The best way to protect the reserve’s rainforest—better than national parks—has turned out to be nine community concessions, forest allotments where locals earn a living from the carefully regulated extraction of timber and plants. - However, the community concessions’ future remains unclear, with contracts set to expire in the coming years and powerful forces opposing them.
Arara Indians in Brazilian Amazon finally given right to their land [06/06/2016]
- Before the 1970’s, groups of Arara Indians lived a nomadic life in the Amazon rainforest along the Iriri River and had little contact with the modern industrialized world. - Brazil’s military government pushed a highway through the heart of Arara territory and invited in settlers from northeastern Brazil who violently colonized what had been the Indians’ homeland. - The Arara people were decimated by the road and by the invasion, and impacted yet again with the building of the Belo Monte mega-dam. - This Spring, Brazil established the Indigenous Territory of Cachoeira Seca, covering 733,688 hectares (2,833 square miles) as a safe haven for the remaining Arara to rebuild their lives and culture. But illegal loggers still threaten their existence, and it remains to be seen if the new government of Michel Temer will actively protect the territory.
10 reasons to be optimistic for forests [06/05/2016]
- It's easy to be pessimistic about the state of the world's forests. - Yet all hope is not lost. There are remain good reasons for optimism when it comes to saving the world's forests. - On the occasion of World Environment Day 2016 (June 5), the United Nations’ "day" for raising awareness and encouraging action to protect the planet, here are 10 forest-friendly trends to watch.
Ignoring scientists, Poland begins logging famous primeval forest [06/03/2016]
- Unlike the rest of Poland and much of Europe, a significant portion – approximately half – of Bialowieza Forest has never been knowingly logged. - The forest is home to wildlife like wolves, moose, and lynx. It served a pivotal role in bringing back the European bison, which had been hunted to extinction in the wild. - Now, Poland's new far-right government is planning on opening up parts of Bialowieza Forest to loggers, in a purported effort to fight spruce beetle infestation. - But scientists and environmentalists are criticizing the move, saying it isn't scientifically valid and is simply a ploy to access the forest's timber reserves.
Successes and many challenges in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve [06/02/2016]
- The Maya Biosphere Reserve, which covers one-fifth of Guatemala, is one of the most important tropical forest areas north of the Amazon. - The reserve is a gem of biological and cultural heritage, with more than 500 species of birds, numerous endangered and iconic wildlife species, and dozens of ancient Mayan archaeological sites. - The reserve's multiple-use zone has generally succeeded at reducing deforestation and providing sustainable livelihoods for communities living there. But deforestation remains a huge problem in the reserve as a whole, pushed along by complex factors, including illegal settlement by landless migrants, oil development, and the presence of drug traffickers, cattle ranchers, and other armed groups.
Cambodia declares new national park, plans to reintroduce tigers [06/01/2016]
- The move grants protection to more than a million acres of rainforest, and joins a group of protected areas totaling 4.5 million acres. - The Cardamom Mountains are home to many threatened species, including Asian elephants and Siamese crocodiles. - Tigers have been absent in Cambodia since 2007. The government, together with an NGO working in the region, is preparing to reintroduce them to Southern Cardamom National Park.
Proposed Amazon dam attracts illegal loggers, threatens local farmers [05/19/2016]
- Dam construction in remote parts of the Amazon is historically proceeded by increased lawlessness as illegal loggers and squatters flock to the project site to cut timber and make land grabs from longtime farmers and other settlers. - The proposed São Luiz do Tapajós hydropower plant on the Tapajós River has seen a rapid uptick in criminal activity, as loggers and squatters try to force residents from their lands, and make homesteaders take part in illegal logging schemes. - Federal and state law enforcement is overstretched in the region, with just 60 personnel to cover an area three times the size of Florida. So the homesteaders are poorly protected from threats and violence. - Rapid development of dams, canals, roads, railways and ports is aimed at turning the Tapajós basin into a major soy and grain transportation hub — a transformation likely to uproot the region’s long time small landholders.
Gabon moves to share forestry profits with local forest communities [05/18/2016]
- Since it was made law in 2001, the Gabonese Forest Code has required companies to share the revenues from timber harvesting with the local communities in which they are operating. But the Forest Code itself did not specify how exactly that should happen in practice. - An implementing decree published 13 years later proposed a benefit sharing agreement template, but the two texts still did not provide enough detail to make benefit sharing actually become a reality. - Then, in 2014, the Ministry of Forests requested a guidance document for the implementing decree. Multiple stakeholders from local forest communities responded with the Technical Guide on Benefit Sharing, developed with input from a legal working group supported by ClientEarth, a legal non-profit based in London.
No logging ban for Myanmar despite reported announcement [05/09/2016]
- A couple weeks ago, news outlets reported an environmental ministry official announced a complete ban on hardwood logging in Myanmar. However, a more senior official later rejected the announcement. - Myanmar has been a hotbed of illegal logging for years, with hundreds of millions of dollars of timber sold annually to China and elsewhere despite a 2014 timber export ban. - Conservation NGO Environmental Investigation Agency has been examining Myanmar's illegal logging trends for years, and says these logging ban rumors may actually be increasing deforestation as loggers rush to cut down trees before a ban is enacted.
Kenya’s forests squeezed as government pressures environment groups [05/06/2016]
- The Kenyan government has accused some civil society groups of militancy, terrorism, being espionage fronts for foreign powers, money laundering, tax evasion, or failing to account for donor funding. - Human rights groups say the accusations are meant to justify deregistering targeted groups, effectively closing them down by paralyzing their operations. - Attempts to quash civil society are no anomaly among unscrupulous Kenyan politicians, but the extent to which these attempts are harming the country’s fragile ecosystems is new.
Indigenous and forest community leaders tour the EU to call for conflict-free palm oil [05/04/2016]
- The delegation revealed new evidence of the involvement of European institutions in financing palm oil grown on illegally deforested lands and highlighted accounts of human and environmental rights violations compiled by the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) and the Environmental Investigation Agency, both UK-based NGOs. - Palm oil is used in thousands of products, from peanut butter and ice cream to household cleaning products, toothpaste, and shampoo. It is also one of the leading drivers of illegal tropical deforestation and social conflict. - A disproportionate amount of so-called “conflict palm oil” is destined for the European Union, research has shown.
Malaysian assets in US allegedly tied to corrupt logging operations [05/03/2016]
- According to a report by investigative news site Sarawak Report, the Yaw family of Malaysia, the owners of the Samling timber group, have allegedly been channeling profits from their logging operations in Sarawak through a company called Sunchase Holdings, a multi-billion dollar real estate group based in Arizona, since the late 1980s. - Today, Sarawak Report found, the group owns a vast amount of land, including several major planned community developments, and also has investments in mineral companies and science and technology enterprises, such as INTRIX, a Sacramento-based software company. - "[T]he evidence shows that Sunchase was funded by the profits of timber corruption in Sarawak, authorised by Taib and channelled through Samling,” per the report.
Cambodia declares protected area in hotly contested Prey Lang forest [05/02/2016]
- Prey Lang has been the subject of a massive grassroots effort to save it — one that has seen environmentalists and journalists killed. - Cambodia has launched a big offensive against illegal logging, but some are skeptical that the main operators will actually be targeted. - Prey Lang was one of five forests to receive the protected status late last week.
A decade in the making: EU, Indonesia to start licensing scheme for legal timber shipments [04/28/2016]
- The EU said Indonesia had "met the final major requirement" of their trade deal under Europe's anti-illegal-logging action plan. - Indonesia is one of 15 countries to sign an agreement with the EU under the plan, and it would be the first to license exports under it. - Both legal and illegal forms of logging have devastated Indonesia's vast rainforests and biodiversity.
International forest conservation finance is flowing to Africa [04/26/2016]
- The DRC contains more than half of the total area of Congo rainforest, so it’s no wonder that as the world has started to take climate change seriously, the DRC’s forests are receiving increased attention. - Half of all deforestation in Ghana is due to agricultural expansion, particularly for growing cocoa, which is why REDD+ financing is focused on improving the sustainability of cocoa production in the country. - REDD+ financing to Liberia began to rise exponentially in 2014 after Norway pledged to greatly increase its funding to support Liberia’s forest conservation efforts.
Grim forecast for paper giant’s wood supply raises deforestation fears [04/22/2016]
- Asia Pulp & Paper spent decades eating through Indonesia’s vast rainforests. Then in 2013, it promised to stop logging natural forests and rely on plantation timber exclusively. - The company’s huge new mill in Sumatra, though, will require vast quantities of wood when it starts operating this year. - A new NGO report suggests the company will have to resume deforestation or risk shattering financial losses. APP has dismissed those concerns, promising to import wood chips if needed.
Mill owner in Washington gets prison time for trafficking in illegally harvested wood [04/20/2016]
- Harold Clause Kupers, a wood buyer and mill owner in Washington state who pled guilty last November to violating the Lacey Act, has been sentenced to prison time. - The Winlock, Washington wood buyer was handed a sentence of six months in prison and six months of home detention followed by three years of supervised release, plus a $159,692 fine, for violating the Lacey Act by trafficking in bigleaf maple illegally cut on national forest land. - Between April 2012 and March 2014, Kupers sold illegal timber to instrument makers in other states for total revenues of $499,414.
West African countries come together to stop the illegal rosewood trade [04/12/2016]
- Several species of rosewood, belonging to the genera Dalbergia and Pterocarpus and collectively known as hongmu, are highly sought after by Chinese furniture manufacturers, who use them to make products that are coveted status symbols. - The majority of rosewood imports into China have traditionally come from Southeast Asian countries, but West Africa has become one of the largest exporting regions feeding China’s growing demand for rosewood in the past few years. - In 2014, nearly half of China's rosewood imports came from Nigeria, Ghana, and other African countries, which supplied just 10 percent of Chinese rosewood imports a decade ago.
An agribusiness revolution is needed to save Africa’s last great apes [04/12/2016]
- Since 2005 up to 227,000 square kilometers (87,645 square miles), an area nearly the size of Ghana, has been acquired in sub-Saharan Africa for large-scale agricultural and forestry concessions. And more concessions are on the way. - With oil palm production poised to explode in Africa, conservationists are scrambling to set up standards for the industry, an effort complicated by by the extreme poverty and corrupt power elites found in many nations. - If Africa’s priceless natural heritage is to be preserved, including its great apes, then a revolution in agricultural practices is needed which will demand a cooperative effort by governments, agribusiness and conservationists.
Half of World Heritage Sites threatened by ‘harmful industrial activities’, new report finds [04/11/2016]
- Natural World Heritage Sites of “outstanding universal value” are increasing being threatened by “harmful industrial activities and operations,” a new report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warns. - Of the 229 natural and mixed World Heritage Sites across the world, 114 sites are currently threatened by harmful industrial activities, the report found. - Industrial activities are not just damaging the sites and endangering their biodiversity and ecology, but also putting the livelihoods and well-being of people at risk, the report says.
DiCaprio endorses petition to save Sumatra’s last great rainforest [04/07/2016]
- The petition asks Indonesia's president to cancel a controversial spatial plan that would open the Leuser Ecosystem to industrial incursions. - Leonardo DiCaprio's philanthropic foundation recently gave NGOs $3.2 million to protect Leuser. - Leuser's pristine forests are only place on earth where rhinos, tigers, elephants and orangutans coexist in the wild.
China’s forests are growing back – but at a cost [04/06/2016]
- In 1998, catastrophic flooding spurred China to implement the Natural Forest Conservation Program, with a goal of reforesting 40 million hectares by 2020. - Analysis of satellite data indicate the program has had some success, with a 1.6 percent gain in overall tree cover between 2000 and 2010. - But now, instead of supplying its own timber products, China is sourcing them from the forests of other countries.
A bleak future for the U.S. ‘wood basket’? Southern forests under threat [04/06/2016]
- The forests of the southern states have been providing much of U.S. lumber for centuries, with 12 percent of the world's wood products sourced from the region in 2011. - A new publication from the United States Forest Service shows the number of lumber mills in the South has been greatly reduced in the past few decades. - But the head of a major conservation organization working in the area warns that logging is still a big issue in the region, one that is likely to grow in the coming years as demand increases for renewable energy.
Local communities rush to save Kenya’s only lowland rainforest [03/29/2016]
- Kakamega Forest is the only forest of its kind in Kenya, home to plants and animals found nowhere else in the country. - For decades, the forest has been shrinking due largely to poverty-driven logging, harvesting of medicinal resources, and agricultural expansion. - To address these issues, local communities around Kakamega have formed groups that promote more sustainable livelihoods.
Massive wildfire rips through Congo rainforest – is logging to blame? [03/23/2016]
- The large fire and several smaller fires spread from late January to early February in northern Republic of Congo. - Fires are uncommon in rainforests, which are usually perpetually moist. - Researchers say El Niño is largely to blame, but that human activities in the region may also have exacerbated the situation.
Guatemala’s REDD+ program draws a range of opinions and results [03/18/2016]
- In only 50 years, between 1950 and 2000, the area lost to logging in Guatemala is about the size of Holland. - GuateCarbón has developed a “community forest model” within a third of the Maya Biosphere, the largest reserve north of the Amazon region that has an extension of 8,400 square miles. - The origin of REDD dates back to 1988, when Guatemala became the world's first experimental field project.
Scientists blame Smokey Bear for making U.S. forests less resilient [03/16/2016]
- Strict anti-fire policy was implemented in the 1940s aimed at stomping out wildfires and preventing them from starting. - But many scientists and wildlife experts say fire suppression can be harmful to ecosystems. - A new study finds fire suppression has contributed to a big compositional change in eastern U.S. forests, with less resilient tree species supplanting drought- and fire-resistant species.
Report from the Amazon #2: Newly created conservation unit could push long-time residents from their lands [03/11/2016]
- The recently created Estaçāo Ecológica da Terra do Meio (EsecTM, Terra do Meio Ecological Station) covers 3.4 million hectares (over 13,000 square miles), between the Amazon basin’s Xingu and Iriri rivers, and was created to discourage land grabs and violence. But the preserve has accidentally threatened the livelihoods and homes of families living there. - The Altamira Public Prosecutor is working to protect the lands of this small group of beiradeiros. She sent a fact-finding team upriver to determine if the families’ small-scale economic activities are negatively impacting the ecosystem, or if, as some scientists suspect, their lifestyle has reshaped and even benefited the environment. - If the 15 families are doing negligible harm, the prosecutor will ask the local judge to allow them to stay. A favorable decision could reverberate throughout the Amazon. It would legally challenge environmental protection as the sole land use priority inside Brazil’s ecological stations and other preserves, and recognize value of low impact human use there.
Drop in timber smuggling gives ‘breathing space’ to Myanmar’s forests [03/10/2016]
- After reaching a near-peak in 2014, illegal timber trade from Myanmar to China appears to have dropped significantly in the last six months. - Analysts attribute this reduction largely to China's economic stagnation and increasing publicity of timber smuggling. - However, conservationists caution the drop in flow is likely temporary.
DNA evidence just helped convict illegal loggers in the US Pacific Northwest [03/10/2016]
- Harold Clause Kupers, a wood buyer and mill owner in Washington state, pled guilty in a District Court in Tacoma to violating the Lacey Act. - Kupers allegedly taught three other defendants, all of whom have pled guilty to theft and damaging government property, how to identify and harvest the most desirable trees, known as “figured” bigleaf maple. - The U.S. Forest Service assembled a team to build a genetic reference database of bigleaf maples and applied DNA profiling technologies to secure the conviction against Kupers and his cohorts.
World’s largest sovereign wealth fund just dropped 11 companies over deforestation [03/10/2016]
- Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), which manages $828 billion worth of funds, released its annual report for 2015 today, revealing that six palm oil companies, four pulp and paper companies, and one coal company were dropped from its investment portfolio. - Lars Løvold, director of the NGO Rainforest Foundation Norway, said that the GPFG’s actions show that companies involved in deforestation risk being cut off from international investment. - Despite dropping these holdings, the fund still has as much as $13 billion invested in high deforestation risk business sectors.
Rogue cop-turned-logger recaptured in Papua after latest prison break [03/09/2016]
- Corrupt cop Labora Sitorus was convicted of illegal logging and money laundering in 2014. More than $100 million had passed through his bank accounts. - Last week, Sitorus escaped from prison. It wasn't the first time he had slipped away. - On Monday he turned himself in and is now in solitary confinement in Jakarta.
Convicted Indonesian police officer and illegal logger on the run once again [03/07/2016]
- In September 2014, Labora Sitorus was ordered to serve 15 years in prison for illegal logging and money laundering. - He was given permission to leave prison in March 2014 to seek medical attention, then simply never returned. - He was re-apprehended in February 2015, but allowed to leave the prison for medical treatment again and had disappeared when police arrived at his home for an arranged transfer to a prison in Jakarta on March 4.
DRC announces intent to reopen its rainforests to logging companies [03/04/2016]
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has the world's second-largest tract of rainforest, home to unique and threatened species like okapis and bonobos. - The DRC government recently stated that it is moving to lift a 2002 moratorium on new industrial logging licenses. - Conservation groups are denouncing the proposal, saying it goes against the country's pledge and international investment to protect its forests.
China’s log imports fall sharply [03/04/2016]
- China's log imports fell sharply in 2015, according to official customs data. - As reported by the International Tropical Timber Organization's ITTO TTM Report: 20:4, China’s log imports in 2015 amounted to 44.55 million cubic meters valued at $8 billion, down 13 percent in volume and 32 percent in value relative to a year earlier. - The fall in imports is linked to China's slowing economy, which has led to global declines for most commodities.
Want to keep tabs on that new logging road in Peru? Well, now you can [03/03/2016]
- The new GLAD alert system offers a big improvement over previous systems that needed a year to broadcast their data. - Its early numbers for 2016 indicate deforestation in some areas may be happening a lot faster than last year. - Analysts say this data could help governments, NGOs, and communities better monitor their forests, as well as more quickly and effectively address deforestation.
New tool seeks end to Indonesian paper giants’ secret links [02/26/2016]
- The Sinar Mas and Royal Golden Eagle conglomerates are connected with dozens of companies in Indonesia's pulp and paper sector. - The Environmental Paper Network has created a database that aspires to list these connections, many of which are hidden from public view. - Sinar Mas' most prominent holding in the sector is Asia Pulp & Paper, while RGE's is APRIL.
Review finds EU plan to curb illegal logging has had little success [02/19/2016]
- Illegal logging is a big problem in forests around the world, particularly in tropical forests where valuable tropical hardwoods are often targeted. The EU is one of the biggest timber markets in the world. - To curb its imports of illegal wood and thereby reduce illegal logging, the EU enacted the EUTR to counter demand through increased traceability of timber imports. - But an EC review of the EUTR's first few years of operation was less than stellar, finding its "overall implementation remains insufficient."
Threatened West African rosewood species gets CITES protection [02/16/2016]
- Demand is booming in China and, to a lesser extent, Vietnam for furniture and other goods made from hongmu, or rosewood, a term used to refer to a wide range of richly hued tropical hardwoods. - Last week, the Secretariat of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) officially announced the listing of the West African rosewood species Pterocarpus erinaceus on Appendix III of the Convention. - Pterocarpus erinaceus, known as “kosso” in China, is an increasingly threatened species native to the vulnerable savannah ecosystems of West Africa.
Secondary forests offer big opportunity to fight global warming [02/12/2016]
- Over half of the world’s tropical forests are not old-growth but naturally regenerating forests, and a large part of that is secondary forest. - An international team analyzed the recovery of above-ground biomass in 1,500 forest plots at 45 sites across Latin America and found that carbon uptake is surprisingly fast in these young, regrowing forests. - After 20 years, secondary forests recovered 122 tons of biomass per hectare (about 2.5 acres) on average.
Aceh citizens ask governor to keep bulldozers out of a crucial rainforest [02/12/2016]
- Communities in North Aceh have been resisting plantation firm PT Mandum Payah Tamita for years. - Locals are afraid the company's actions will spur flooding downstream of two important rivers. - The firm's concession lies within the Leuser Ecosystem, one of Sumatra's last intact rainforests.
Republic of Congo awards two million hectares of timber concessions [02/11/2016]
- The Republic of the Congo recently announced 2 million hectares in new logging concessions. Those awards, some occurring ahead of government bid deadlines, should be seen as a warning bell of possible political corruption, said a number of NGO watchdog groups. - The large new concessions come shortly after a constitutional re-write that allows longstanding President Nguesso to run for a third term in upcoming elections, causing critics to wonder if the forest sell-off could have been prompted by a political campaign shortfall. - Several of the companies who were granted large concessions have spotty legal records, including environmental and social violations. Critics say that Congo’s forestry laws need to be reformed, and that penalties against rampant logging violations need to be enforced.
New deforestation hotspot threatens southern Peru’s tremendous biodiversity [02/03/2016]
- An incredible array of species -- which Mongabay once called a “shocking wildlife bonanza” -- call the threatened forests of the Lower Piedras River home. - According to an assessment by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), an area along the lower Las Piedras River near the community of Lucerna experienced a "sharp increase" in deforestation starting in 2012. - In the 4 years between 2012 and 2015, MAAP discovered that deforestation skyrocketed to 472 hectares (1,166 acres).
Vast majority of Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest made permanently off-limits to industrial logging [02/02/2016]
- An agreement announced today will make 85 percent of the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest old-growth temperate rainforests left in the world, off-limits to industrial logging. - The remaining 15 percent will be subject to “stringent" legal standards. - The agreement also solidifies First Nations governments’ shared decision-making powers with the B.C. government within their traditional territories.
Does sustainable forest management actually protect forests? [01/28/2016]
- A team of scientists is questioning whether sustainable forest management (SFM) is as effective as believed, based on their analysis of timber concessions in the Central African nation of the Republic of Congo. - In a recent study, they find that timber concessions operating under forest management plans (FMPs) showed higher rates of deforestation than concessions without them. - However, other experts in the field of tropical forestry say the study is overly simplistic, arguing that FMP performance alone should not be used as a barometer of SFM success or failure.
International embargo on exports of Madagascar’s precious woods extended [01/19/2016]
- The illegal harvest and trade of ebonies (Diospyros), palisanders, and rosewoods (Dalbergia) is devastating the livelihoods of forest-dependent peoples and the unique ecosystems of Madagascar. - Madagascar has made very little progress on key commitments it agreed to as part of a 2013 CITES listing and has failed to implement structural reforms to its judicial system necessary to ensure functional forest governance, according to a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency. - The parties convened in Geneva last week for the 66th Standing Committee of CITES decided to continue the embargo, and threatened further sanctions if the Madagascar government didn’t show any progress by the committee's next meeting in September.
Peru terminates head of forest watchdog agency [01/15/2016]
- Under Navarro Gómez, Peru made big strides to coordinate with other agencies; it focussed on dismantling logging mafias and on orchestrating seizures of illegal timber. - OSINFOR's big operations were praised but also invited retaliation. - The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has accused the Peruvian government of "acting to silence its own civil servants exposing the embedded illegal timber mafias in the country."
Is eco-certification the solution to forest destruction? [01/14/2016]
- The FSC's standards rest on some of the most enlightened forestry practices in the world. By creating a specific market for ethical wood, the FSC aims to create a world of ethically run and sustainable forests. - In September, a bust by US officials of wood illegally imported from Peru became the latest in a series of cases where forestry operations benefit from a relationship with the FSC without following FSC practices — or, in some cases, even the law. - Critics say failures in the FSC's certification process threaten to undermine the council's mission.
50+ companies being investigated or punished for Indonesia’s haze crisis [12/31/2015]
- More than 50 plantation companies are being punished or investigated by the Indonesian for fires linked to the choking haze that polluted skies across Southeast Asia this fall. - A week ago Monday, Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya announced that 23 companies have been punished to date. - Another 33 companies are being investigated.
Here Are The Top 15 Environmental Stories of 2015 [12/30/2015]
- This was a year that saw President Obama reject the Keystone pipeline as historic droughts and a vicious wildfire season wracked the western US and Canada. - The world committed to climate action in Paris as Southeast Asia was choking on the worst Indonesian haze in years. - Shell aborted its plans to drill in the Arctic for the "foreseeable" future and ExxonMobil is being investigated for lying to the public about climate risks.
The year in rainforests: 2015 [12/29/2015]
- Between the landmark climate agreement signed in Paris in December 2015, Indonesia's fire and haze crisis of the late summer and early fall, and continuing adoption of zero deforestation policies by some of the world's largest companies, tropical forests grabbed the spotlight more than usual in 2015. - Here's a look at some of the biggest tropical forest-related developments from the past year. - Trends in forest cover tend to lag broad economic trends, but there were indications that the global economic slowdown driven by declining growth in China may be starting to impact tropical forests.
China’s demand for rosewood is destroying forests in Southeast Asia and, increasingly, In Africa [12/23/2015]
- Several species of rosewood, collectively known as hongmu, are prized by Chinese furniture manufacturers who use them to make products that are highly coveted status symbols. - The majority of rosewood imports into China traditionally come from Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. - But in 2014, when imports were at an all-time high, nearly half came from Nigeria, Ghana and other African countries, whereas those countries supplied just 10 percent of Chinese rosewood imports a decade ago.
How does the global commodity collapse impact forest conservation? [12/21/2015]
- Since early 2014, prices for most commodities produced in the tropics have plunged. - The market rout is wreaking havoc on the state budgets of developing countries, curbing investment, and pushing producers to scale back on output and postpone plans for expansion. - In isolation, these developments would seem to be good news for tropical forests. But the reality is more complex,
The most recent seizure shows the scale and extent of illegal timber trafficking in Peru [12/14/2015]
- A recent audit from the Peruvian government found evidence of timber laundering, through which exporters registered illegally-sourced wood to make it seem as it had been legally harvested. - It is believed that the wood is being indiscriminately taken from protected areas like the Cordillera Azul, Sierra del Divisor or Alto Purus; from buffer zones, or even indigenous reserves. - Authorities from the Loreto region calculate that about 80% of the shipment seized at the end of November belonged to La Oroza Investments; the remaining 20% belonged to Sico Maderas SAC and Corporación Inforest MC SAC.
Romania struggles to turn the tide of illegal logging [12/05/2015]
- Romania has Europe's last tract of primary forest that's large enough to retain its original levels of biodiversity. - An average of 62 reported cases of illegal logging are reported every day, with three hectares of woodland lost every hour. - The European Commission is investigating claims alleging Romania's biggest timber exporters are sourcing illegally-felled wood.
Illegal gold miners in Madre de Dios, Peru, paralyze the region with protests [12/04/2015]
- Since November 23, the Madre de Dios region in southeastern Peru has been paralyzed with protests, road blockades, and tire burnings. - The government's executive branch proposed the creation of a negotiation panel for sustainable development in the regio in an effort to solve the conflict with the illegal miners. - An estimated 30,000 illegal gold miners are believed to be working in Madre de Dios alone.
Grassroots leader’s murder in Peru is a signal to opponents of mining, son says [11/27/2015]
- The son of the president of a reforestation association who was murdered on November 19 vowed to continue his father’s work in Peru’s southern Amazonian forest. - Alfredo Vracko had settled on the land in the Amazonian lowlands, not far from the Madre de Dios River, in 1975. - Vracko’s property is across the Interoceanic Highway from the buffer zone of the Tambopata National Reserve, in an area known as La Pampa, which has been a hot spot for illegal mining for nearly a decade.
Rainforests could provide half global climate solution by 2050 [11/25/2015]
- Protecting, restoring, and better managing tropical forests could provide as much as half the net carbon emissions required to meet a 2-degree Celsius climate target. - The authors cite three opportunities where tropical forests could make substantial contributions: reducing deforestation and degradation, allowing forests degraded by logging and shifting agriculture to recover, and reforesting areas that have been cleared. - All told, those efforts could sequester and avoid emissions of up to five billion tons per year, or just under half the current level of emissions from fossil fuels, for about 50 years. About 20 percent of that would come via reducing emissions by cutting the amount of trees that are felled and burned, while 80 percent would come from sequestration.
New dams may expose Canadian seafood consumers to higher levels of neurotoxin [11/23/2015]
- Methylmercury, a dangerous neurotoxin, can build up in the bodies of marine mammals and fish, threatening the humans who eat them. - New research suggests dams and reservoirs in sub-Arctic regions may release methylmercury downstream. - Native residents who depend on hunting and fishing are especially at risk.
EU scheme failing to stop timber trafficking, finds audit [11/20/2015]
- The EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan was introduced in 2003 in effort to stop the flow of illegally harvested timber into Europe. - The review of the plan, performed by the European Court of Auditors, found implementation lacking in most countries. - But some conservation organizations don't agree with everything in the review, saying it didn't consider all aspects of the plan and even contains faulty information.
Small, controlled fires are the only way to prevent large wildfires, researchers argue [11/20/2015]
- Stamping out forest fires indiscriminately leads to denser trees and debris in many forests, fueling unusually large wildfires. - Recent U.S. wildfires have gained so much power that scientific models can no longer predict their behavior. - A new paper urges the public to demand a correction in this trend by changing how forest fires are managed
To tackle climate change cheaply, first secure indigenous forest rights [11/17/2015]
- Over 20 years, the secure forest rights of indigenous groups in the Brazilian Amazon and communities in a Guatemalan reserve will prevent the release of 5.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide – equivalent to the emissions of more than a billion cars in a year – as a result of avoided deforestation, a new report shows. - The report calculates that the economic benefits from those averted emissions as well as carbon capture in the secure forests will surpass $160 billion. - A second report finds that the way local communities harvest timber on their concessions in the Guatemalan reserve represents state-of-the-art best practice for tropical forest management.
Journey to oblivion: unraveling Latin America’s illegal wildlife trade [11/16/2015]
- The trafficking of elephants in Africa has gained tremendous media attention. Not so the illegal trade in birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and fish of Central and South America, a problem of epidemic proportion. - The trafficking routes — out of rainforests and natural habitats, through local markets, to border crossings, airports and seaports, and on to consumers in the U.S., Europe, China and elsewhere — are shrouded in secrecy. - Latin American trafficking laws are weak and full of loopholes; few traffickers are caught, and when they are, they are often given a slap on the wrist. Stricter laws, enforcement, and penalties are needed, before it is too late.
‘A critical gift’: Peru rejoices as a new national park is born [11/10/2015]
- The new park spans 1.3 million hectares of largely primary forest, and contains unique wildlife habitat and uncontacted indigenous communities. - The declaration comes after nearly 10 years of struggle by conservation groups, scientists, and local communities for national park status for the region. - National park status will confer more protection to Sierra del Divisor, stymieing the illegal logging, coca cultivation, and gold mining that has been growing stronger in recent years.
Indonesia losing billions from illegal logging [11/09/2015]
- A new report finds that unreported timber sales have dwarfed those reported by the central government. - As a result of black market timber sales, Indonesia lost an estimated $6.5-8.9 billion in potential state revenue from taxes and levies. - The investigation was conducted by Indonesia's antigraft agency at the behest of President Joko Widodo.