COP23: Leaders vie for protection of ‘incredibly important’ African peatland [11/17/2017]
- The presence of the world’s biggest tropical peatland was recently confirmed in Central Africa. It is the size of England and straddles the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo (ROC). - However, conservationists and scientists worry it may be at risk from logging and development. They caution its destruction could release “vast amounts” of carbon emissions. Others say the threats are overblown. - Conservation leaders and representatives gathered this week at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, say protections could exist through REDD+ projects that could give local communities management rights and provide financial incentives for leaving the peat forest intact.
Madagascar petitions CITES to sell millions in stolen rosewood [11/13/2017]
- The Madagascar government has petitioned wildlife regulators under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) for permission to sell its stockpiles of seized rainforest wood. - Some campaigners warn that traffickers stand to benefit from any such sale and fear it could herald a “logging boom” in the country’s remaining rainforests. - The CITES committee will consider the proposal at the end of this month.
In Vietnam, small farmers and timber magnates forge uneasy alliance [11/10/2017]
- Vietnam plans to certify as sustainable some 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles) of production forests in the country and boost timber export value to $8 billion by 2020. - Nearly a quarter of the country’s forests are managed by smallholders, whose subsistence lifestyle often compels them to harvest their timber too young to be used for furniture or as quality wood products. - An initiative by WWF looks set to change this by training smallholders in sustainable farming methods under FSC standards, which is hoped to also boost their income over the long term. - Local wood processors and exporters are also pushing for higher domestic supply as they look for a more viable alternative to costly imported timber.
Logjam: Inside Madagascar’s illegal-rosewood stockpiles [11/08/2017]
- Over the past six years, Madagascar has spent millions of dollars and devoted countless person hours to figuring out how to dispose of vast stockpiles of highly valuable, illegally logged rosewood, much of it cut from the country’s rainforests following a 2009 coup. - To do so, the government must conduct a comprehensive inventory of the stockpiles, among other requirements issued by CITES. - The World Bank has supported the effort with at least $3 million to $4 million in murky ad hoc loans. - The current state of affairs, with untold thousands of rosewood logs still unaccounted for, and tens of thousands more stacked outside government offices, is widely seen as facilitating continued corruption and illicit activity.
Indonesia races against time to save new orangutan species [11/06/2017]
- With an estimated population of less than 800, the newly described Tapanuli orangutan is already at risk of extinction due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. - The Indonesian government will come up with a strategy to protect the orangutan, including the establishment of protected forest areas and wildlife sanctuaries. - The government will also review a plan to build a hydroelectric plant in an area with the highest known density of Tapanuli orangutans.
Does community-based forest management work in the tropics? [11/02/2017]
- To find out if community-based forest management is effective, we read 30 studies that best represent the available evidence.
(See the interactive infographic below.) - Overall, community-based forest management does not appear to make a forest’s condition worse — and may even make it better. - The evidence on socio-economic benefits is mixed, but what research there is suggests that community-based forest management sometimes aggravates existing inequities within communities. - This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
The Eighth Great Ape: New orangutan species discovered in Sumatra [11/02/2017]
- A study indicates what was once assumed to be an isolated population of the Sumatran orangutan is in fact a distinct species. - The Batang Toru orangutan differs from the Sumatran orangutan in morphology, behavior and genetics. Genomic analysis suggests it diverged from other orangutan species 3.4 million years ago. - There are fewer than 800 Batang Toru orangutans in existence, making it the rarest of all the great apes. - It is highly threatened by habitat loss. The study says a hydropower plant planned for the area could affect 8 percent of the species’ remaining forest habitat.
Interoceanic Highway incites deforestation in Peru, threatens more to come [11/01/2017]
- Between July and August, 435 hectares of forest were lost around Iberia, a Peruvian town that has been turned into a deforestation hotspot. - The Interoceanic Highway is threatening forests in eastern Peru’s Amazon rainforest where many residents depend on sustainably harvesting rubber for their livelihoods.
Parks and reserves ‘significant’ force for slowing climate change [10/30/2017]
- Protecting tropical forests between 2000 and 2012 amounted to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to a 29 percent cut in deforestation rates. - The authors used statistical models to estimate the amount of CO2 that would have been released if currently protected areas in South America, Asia and Africa had instead been cleared. - The researchers argue that their findings bolster the conservation case for safeguarding tropical forests.
RAPP to retire some plantation land in Sumatra amid government pressure [10/27/2017]
- A subsidiary of paper giant APRIL has agreed in principle to retire a large part of its plantations in eastern Sumatra for conservation purposes, following government orders. - The company initially refused to comply with what it saw as an illegal order, and warned of a 50 percent reduction in supply from its concessions. - In giving up part of its concessions, RAPP is demanding to be compensated with new land — something the government has agreed to do in stages.
Burning down the house: Myanmar’s destructive charcoal trade [10/26/2017]
- A nearly year-long investigation by Mongabay led to a multi-part reporting project into the illegal production and trade of charcoal in Myanmar. - One route for charcoal sales from Myanmar to China documented by Mongabay could generate as much as $10 million a year in payoffs alone to Burmese government officials. - Charcoal is used to make silicon metal, used to manufacture a massive range of products, from solar panels to the silicon chips used in laptops and other mobile devices. - In this series, reported for Mongabay by investigative journalist Emmanuel Freudenthal with photography and videography by Nathan Siegel, we go behind the curtain to reveal a world of conflicting interests, needs, and loyalties in forest management and conservation.
Supporting conservation by playing a game? Seriously? (commentary) [10/26/2017]
- Can you answer important questions about conservation by playing a game? Yes, and it works. - In August, ForDev, the research team I lead, was invited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Congo Basin Office to facilitate a workshop of their Regional Working Group on High Conservation Values. FSC’s goal was to define regional indicators for the management of Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) within certified forest concessions. - We combined the MineSet role-playing game with facilitation techniques to help members of the Working Group understand each other, integrate research outputs in their discussions, and support the decision-making process. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Lemur species losing favorite food to climate change, new study says [10/26/2017]
- The greater bamboo lemur tends to feed on nutritious bamboo shoots, switching to the woody trunk of the plant only during the dry season. - A longer dry season due to climate change could force them to subsist on this less-than-optimal food source for more of the year, potentially pushing this critically endangered species closer to extinction, according to a new study. - This discovery could have implications for other threatened species, like the giant panda, that depend on one type of food.
Two scientists and a NASA astronaut just biked across the Brazilian Amazon and want to tell you about it [10/25/2017]
- On Sept 26, two scientists and a NASA astronaut completed TransAmazon +25, a bike trek across the Brazilian Amazon. - What makes this trip particularly interesting is that one of the cyclists, Osvaldo Stella, a mechanical engineer with the non-profit Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) in Brazil who works with small-scale farmers and other landowners to preserve and restore forests, did the same ride 25 years ago. - Stella was accompanied on the journey by Paulo Moutinho, a co-founder and senior scientist at IPAM and a Distinguished Policy Fellow at the Woods Hole Research Center in the USA; as well as Chris Cassidy, an astronaut with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Navy SEAL. - “Gold mining, deforestation, and pastures covered many of the areas that were covered with forest 25 years ago,” Stella told Mongabay. ”The cities are larger but have not changed much in their overall appearance. One more sign that the current economic model generates much impact to the environment but little improvement in the quality of life of the people.”
FSC mulls rule change to allow certification for recent deforesters [10/24/2017]
- Motion 7 passed at the FSC General Assembly meeting in Vancouver on Oct. 13, indicating that the organization will pursue a change to its rules allowing companies that have converted forests to plantations since 1994 to go for certification. - Current rules do not allow FSC certification for any companies that have cleared forested land since 1994. - Proponents of a rule change say it would allow more companies to be held to FSC standards and could result in the restoration or conservation of ‘millions of hectares’ in compensation for recent deforestation. - Opponents argue that FSC is bending to industry demands and that a rule change will increase the pressure for land conversion on communities and biodiversity.
New study: Risky roads cause more than just environmental harm [10/24/2017]
- Globally, 25 million kilometers (15.5 million miles) of paved roads are planned for construction by 2050. - A new study, published Monday in the journal Current Biology, examines the environmental, socio-political and economic risks that accompany road building, particularly in the developing world. - The authors argue for a more deliberate process to select sites for roads that will produce the most economic benefit while minimizing damage to the environment.
Economic headwinds buffet once-resilient Sumatran forest-farms [10/23/2017]
- Farmers in Indonesia’s Krui region have long cultivated valuable damar resin trees among typical crops such as coconuts and rice. - These agroforests have for more than a century served as an economic bulwark for local communities against the encroachment of palm oil and timber operations. - Since 2000, however, a fifth of the region’s damar agroforests have been razed for sawmills and oil palm plantations, with land grabs and low resin prices driving the decline.
Estonia’s trees: Valued resource or squandered second chance? [10/20/2017]
- Soviet rule in the early 20th century led to the regrowth of many of the country’s forests. Today, Estonia is Europe’s fourth-most forested country. - As private land ownership and industry expand in the country, however, so are the pressures to log. - Estonia’s Ministry of Environment claims that Estonia’s forests are currently expanding in size, but conservation scientists say the opposite is true. Satellite data indicate the country gained 90,000 hectares of tree cover while losing 285,000. - Local conservation organizations are pressing the government to adopt more sustainable practices, including a ban on logging during part of the year and the cessation of a new logging amendment that would lower the felling age of spruce trees.
Another Madagascar environmental activist imprisoned [10/20/2017]
- Malagasy authorities have held Raleva, a 61-year-old farmer, in custody since September 27 after he asked to see a mining company’s permits to operate near his village. - His arrest is at least the sixth such case of authorities targeting those opposed to wildlife trafficking or land grabs. - Environmental activists say they face bribes and threats from traffickers on one side, and jail time and fines from the government on the other.
Leading US plywood firm linked to alleged destruction, rights violations in Malaysia [10/19/2017]
- An investigation has found that Liberty Woods, the top importer of plywood in the US, buys wood from a Malaysian company that has faced numerous allegations of environmentally unsustainable logging and indigenous rights violations. - Environmental NGOs have accused the timber industry in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, of clearing too much forest too quickly, polluting streams and rivers and failing to obtain consent to log from local communities. - Satellite imagery analysis in 2013 showed that, between 2000 and 2012, Malaysia had the world’s highest deforestation rate. - In Sarawak, where logging company Shin Yang is based, only 5 percent of forests remain relatively untouched.
‘If it’s going to kill us, OK, we’ll die’: Villagers stand firm as Cambodian dam begins to fill [10/18/2017]
- Cambodia’s largest hydropower project, the Lower Sesan 2 dam, was officially launched late last month. - Experts fear the dam will lead to a 9.3 percent loss of fish throughout the entire Lower Mekong River Basin, a concern Prime Minister Hun Sen has brushed aside. - Thousands of people have already been relocated to make way for the dam, but around 100 families intend to stay on their land, despite intense pressure and the risk of inundation.
Birdwatching poised to take flight in Colombia, study reveals [10/10/2017]
- A new study identifies 67 communities with high potential for developing birdwatching ecotourism in Colombia. - The country is home to more than 1,900 bird species, including 443 rare birds ‘highly valued by bird watchers.’ - The authors present ecotourism as an alternative to mining and logging as rural communities look for ways to develop economically after a decades-long conflict.
Giant tree-dwelling rat discovered in the Solomon Islands [09/27/2017]
- The Uromys vika is the first new rodent species to be described from the Solomon Islands in 80 years. - The elusive rat was finally discovered when an 18-inch, orange-brown individual fell out of a tree that had been cut down by a logging company. - The researchers think that the rat should be listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List because the rat appears to be rare, and its rainforest habitat is rapidly being logged away.
Does forest certification really work? [09/21/2017]
- Based on a review of 40 studies of variable quality, we found that certified tropical forests can overall be better for the environment than forests managed conventionally. - But there wasn’t enough evidence to say if certified tropical forests are better than, the same as, or worse than conventionally managed tropical forests when it comes to people. - We also found that profits and other economic benefits can be hard to come by for certified logging companies working in tropical forests. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
Indigenous victory: Brazil’s Temer decrees 1.2 million Amazon reserve [09/18/2017]
- In a rare recent victory for Brazil’s indigenous people, President Temer has established the 1.2 million hectare Indigenous Territory of Turubaxi-Téa along the Middle Negro River in Amazonas state. - While NGOs and indigenous groups applaud the move, they note that the region has not been claimed by the Temer-backed ruralists, agribusiness and mining interests, who have aggressively disputed indigenous claims to ancestral lands in the southern Amazon region. - Two weeks ago, Temer reversed a decree establishing the 532-hectare indigenous Territory of Jaraguá in São Paulo state, ancestral home to 700 Guarani Indians. As a result, the indigenous group has now been squeezed into a reserve covering just 1.7 hectares. - Brazil also just established the 5,200-hectare Indigenous Territory of Tapeba, near Fortaleza, the capital of the northeastern state of Ceará. These indigenous victories do not seem to indicate a shift away from Temer’s wave of initiatives undermining indigenous land rights.
What works in conservation? In-depth series starts next week [09/15/2017]
- “Conservation Effectiveness” is a multi-part series investigating the effectiveness of some of the most popular strategies to conserve tropical forests around the world. - The series is the result of a collaboration between Mongabay staff reporters Shreya Dasgupta and Mike Gaworecki, and a team of conservation scientists led by tropical forest ecologist Zuzana Burivalova of Princeton University. - Conservation Effectiveness launches next week.
These 3 companies owe Indonesia millions of dollars for damaging the environment. Why haven’t they paid? [08/23/2017]
- The Indonesian government has been trying to collect penalties from three companies found guilty of damaging the environment. - One of the companies is PT Kallista Alam, an oil palm plantation firm convicted of cut-and-burning rainforest in the Leuser Ecosystem. - Another is PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari, a timber plantation firm that was ordered to pay more than a billion dollars for illegal logging. - The government plans to establish a task force for the express purpose of collecting the penalties.
A clouded future: Asia’s enigmatic clouded leopard threatened by palm oil [08/17/2017]
- The clouded leopard is the least well-known of the big cats. Both species (Neofelis nebulosa and Neofelis diarti) are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN across their ranges. - Clouded leopard habitat falls within three of the world’s top palm oil producing countries: Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. While many questions remain about this elusive species’ ecology, it’s widely believed that palm oil development severely threatens its long-term survival in the wild. - At a recent workshop in Sabah, Malaysia, experts devised a 10-year action plan to help secure the Sunda clouded leopard in the state, where it’s estimated there are around 700 left in the wild. - Biologists who study the species are hopeful that enough time remains to save the species in the long term – if plantations and development take conservation into consideration.
Mammal numbers high in logged tropical forests, study finds [08/16/2017]
- The study quantified mammal numbers in forests and landscapes with varying degrees of human impact in Malaysian Borneo. - Across 57 mammal species recorded with live and camera traps, the average number of all animals combined was 28 percent higher in logged forests — where hunting wasn’t an issue — compared to old-growth forests. - The findings demonstrate the importance of conserving degraded forests along with more pristine areas.
Monkey rediscovered in Brazil after 80 years [08/09/2017]
- An Ecuadorian naturalist collected the bald-faced Vanzolini saki in 1936 along the Eiru River. His record was the first and last known living evidence of the species. - In February 2017, an expedition called Houseboat Amazon set out to survey the forest along the Juruá River and its tributaries, with the hopes of finding the Vanzolini saki. - After just four days, the team spotted one leaping from branch to branch in a tall tree by the Eiru River. - The saki’s habitat is still fairly pristine, but the scientists worry its proximity to Brazil’s “arc of deforestation” and hunting pressure may threaten the species in the future.
Sixth mass extinction ‘tsunami’ coming, but preventable [08/04/2017]
- Biologist Thomas Lovejoy writes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that we can stop the current spate of biodiversity and species loss that the Earth is experiencing. - Pointing to a recent study showing that many animals are declining in numbers in addition to those facing the imminent risk of extinction, Lovejoy argues that we need to address all of the impacts that humans have on ecosystems. - He calls for the restoration of degraded forests and wetlands — activities in which everyone can participate — to facilitate the movement of wildlife between habitats and bring back the services that ecosystems provide.
US retailers halt sales of hardwood flooring linked to illegal logging in PNG [08/01/2017]
- A report released today by London-based NGO Global Witness has prompted major US retailers to discontinue sales of exotic wood flooring linked to illegal logging in Papua New Guinea (PNG). - Global Witness reports that an investigation into the 9,000-mile-long chain of custody that timber travels on its way from PNG to Chinese factories and ultimately store shelves in the United States determined that as much as one-third of the wood exports coming from the South Pacific nation in recent years was produced by clear-cutting rainforest concessions that local communities say were granted to logging companies in violation of their rights under PNG law. - The majority of timber produced in PNG is shipped to China and turned into flooring, furniture, and plywood, among other products, much of which is sold domestically. But the US buys $15 billion-worth of wood products from China every year, more than any other country. - Many Chinese companies don’t do their due diligence, Global Witness reports, putting US companies at significant risk of violating the Lacey Act.
Western Chimpanzee numbers declined by more than 80 percent over the past quarter century [07/31/2017]
- Research published in the American Journal of Primatology earlier this month finds that the overall Western Chimpanzee population declined by six percent annually between 1990 and 2014, a total decline of 80.2 percent. - The main threats to the Western Chimpanzee are almost all man-made. Habitat loss and fragmentation driven by slash-and-burn agriculture, industrial agriculture (including deforestation for oil palm plantations as well as eucalyptus, rubber, and sugar cane developments), and extractive industries like logging, mining, and oil top the list. - In response to the finding that the Western Chimpanzee population has dropped so precipitously in less than three decades, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) elevated the subspecies’ status to Critically Endangered on its Red List of Threatened Species.
Is Norwegian money funding Congo deforestation? [07/28/2017]
- A recent report by conservation NGO Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) is decrying what they say is Norwegian government complicity in funding a project they allege could result in the clearance of vast tracts of Congo rainforest and the release of billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. - RFUK’s report spotlights a project funded through Norway’s Central Africa Forest Initiative (CAFI) that would increase the area comprised by logging concessions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by 20 million hectares. Its analysis found the concessions stand to include 10,000 square kilometers of peat swamp, and if actively logged, could release as much as 3.8 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. - Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment says the report is overblown and the situation more complicated than RFUK contends. - Per F. I. Pharo, director of the Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, said an amended project proposal is under review and will not be accepted unless various conditions are met: “Among the key recommendations Norway has made to the program document is the importance that the program document should not conclude on important policy choices that should be the product of a thorough and inclusive process at country level.”
Five promising stories for Global Tiger Day [07/28/2017]
- Since the last Global Tiger Day in 2016, researchers have discovered tiger populations in unexpected areas, such as forested corridors along riverbanks and in areas that recently served as theaters of war. - Several countries have worked to protect the tigers that live within their borders, including the creation of a massive national park and taking steps to end tiger farming. - Camera trap surveys continue to prove invaluable to wildlife researchers in tracking down tigers and other species that can range over huge areas.
First ‘intrusions’ into unbroken forests drive pulses of biodiversity loss [07/28/2017]
- The study examined ‘initial intrusions’ into tropical forests and their effect on the threat status of species. - The researchers found that deforestation at current rates in high-priority areas such as Borneo, the Congo Basin, and the Amazon could push 121 to 219 species closer to extinction in the next 30 years. - While the authors point out that their conclusions are not a call to protect only intact landscapes, the data could help policymakers working with limited resources to decide where to place new protected areas.
Orangutans find home in degraded forests [07/24/2017]
- The study leveraged three years of orangutan observation in the field and airborne mapping of the forest structure using laser-based light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology. - The research team found that orangutans make use of habitats that have been ‘degraded’ by logging and other human uses. - The research is part of a larger effort in collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department to map carbon stocks and plant and animal biodiversity throughout the Malaysian state of Sabah with the goal of identifying new areas for conservation.
Camera traps capture elusive ocelots in Peru’s Madre de Dios [07/20/2017]
- The ocelot is a particularly important part of the Amazonian ecosystem because it’s a dominant species in the food chain, especially at the mesopredator level. - Between 1960 and 1970, Peru’s population of ocelots went through a crisis known as a population bottleneck. Even today, they are sometimes kept as pets or killed for their fur. - In addition to the hunting of ocelots, the study highlights the vulnerability of Peru’s Las Piedras District. Although it has some of the most remote forests in Peru, the district is at risk of deforestation and degradation due to the human pressures like logging.
Mothers vs. loggers: the destruction of Białowieża Forest splits Poland [07/19/2017]
- A bark beetle outbreak has led Polish officials to begin large-scale logging across old-growth Białowieża Forest, home to bison, wolves and a rich cultural history. - The logging is opposed by everyone from scientists to the UN to the European Commission to a group of mothers concerned about the world their children will inherit. - The European Commission has recently declared that all logging should cease.
2016 was even deadlier for environmental and indigenous activists than 2015 [07/13/2017]
- According to a new report released today by Global Witness, at least 200 people were killed in 24 countries last year in retaliation for standing up to environmentally destructive industrial projects. That’s up from 185 murders in 16 countries in 2015. - With at least 33 murders linked to the sector, mining appears to be the most deadly industry to oppose. But killings connected to logging companies are on the rise, with 23 in 2016, compared to 15 the year before. Another 23 deaths were associated with agribusiness projects, 18 with poachers, and seven with hydroelectric dam projects. - More than half of all killings of environmental activist last year occurred in Latin America. Brazil was once again the deadliest country in the world to be an activist, with 49 murders, many of them committed by loggers and landowners in the Amazon.
Leaked terms of huge EU-Japan trade deal spark environmental alarm [06/29/2017]
- A new trade deal between the European Union (EU) and Japan is set to become one of the biggest ever. - The deal would alleviate certain trade barriers, improve access to automobile and machinery industries for both Japan and the EU and establish new protocols for the resolution of investment disputes. - Conservation NGOs are critical of the deal’s terms, which they say lack “any binding obligations” to environmental protection, and will result in lower standards against illegal logging.
Logging in Malaysia’s Ulu Muda forest threatens wildlife and water supplies [06/26/2017]
- The Ulu Muda forest is the primary source of water for four million Malaysians, as well as for industry and agriculture. - The forest is also home to a huge diversity of species, including the Asian elephant, Malayan tapir, sambar deer and clouded and spotted leopards. - Although the federal government imposed a ban on logging in the reserve in 2003, local authorities have allowed commercial logging to increase over the past decade.
Illegal logging and hunting threaten Yasuní isolated indigenous groups [06/22/2017]
- A preliminary report on illegal logging in the Tagaeri-Taromenane Intangible Zone reveals a complete law enforcement abandonment of the eastern part of Yasuní National Park. - People living inside Yasuní National Park have denounced the presence of Peruvian timber and bushmeat traffickers in the Ecuadorian Amazon. - Experts fear the constant pressures to which the isolated indigenous groups are subjected in the Intangible Zone will trigger massacres and increase the likelihood of extinction of isolated populations. - Multiple NGOs are preparing to file official complaints against the violation of environmental and human rights by illegal logging and hunting pressures.
Borneo’s ‘biocultural holocaust’: an interview with author Alex Shoumatoff [06/19/2017]
- Over the past half century, we’ve laid waste to the rainforests of Borneo thanks to humanity’s demand for food, fuel, and fiber. - The Wasting of Borneo, a new book by Alex Shoumatoff, chronicles some of Borneo’s staggering losses - Shoumatoff is a former writer and editor for The New Yorker, Outside, Condé Nast Traveler, and Vanity Fair who Donald Trump once called “the greatest writer in America”.
Why losing big animals causes big problems in tropical forests [06/14/2017]
- A team of scientists from Germany and Spain built a mathematical model to test the interplay between plants and animals that results in the distribution of seeds. - Field data collected from Peru’s Manu Biosphere Reserve formed the foundation of the model. - The scientists discovered the importance of matching between the sizes of seeds and the birds in the ecosystem. - As larger birds were removed from the forest, the forest’s biodiversity dropped more quickly.
Long plagued by illegal logging, Cambodia faces accusations of corruption [06/12/2017]
- Long known as a hotspot for rapid and largely illegal deforestation for logging, Cambodia was singled out in a May 2017 EIA report. - The report was the result of months of undercover investigations which found that from November 2016, more than 300,000 cubic meters (nearly 10.6 million cubic feet) of timber have been illegally felled in a wildlife sanctuary and two protected areas in Cambodia. - Most of the timber was sold to Vietnam and generated $13 million in kickbacks from Vietnamese timber traders. - Environmental experts believe that a much-publicized crackdown on illegal logging launched in Cambodia in early 2016 was little more than theatrics.
‘Who wants to go for holiday to see large clear-cuts?’: Slovakia turns against its national parks [05/29/2017]
- Conservationists slam the Slovakian government for mismanaging its most known national park, Tatra National Park, home to capercaillie and a number of other charismatic species. - The IUCN is currently mulling downgrading Tatra National Park’s status due to logging, hunting, and overdevelopment without environmental safeguards. - If that downgrade passes, it could have an impact on tourism to Tatra National Park – as its wildlife populations decline and its forests vanish.
Big animals can survive reduced-impact logging — if done right [05/22/2017]
- Employing camera traps to survey Amazonian mammals in Guyana, researchers found that large mammals and birds did not see a lower population of target species in reduced-impact logging areas as compared to unlogged areas. For some species, like jaguars and pumas, population numbers actually rose. - The research was conducted in an unusually managed swath of forest: Iwokrama. Spreading over nearly 400,000 hectares (close to 990,000 acres) – an area a little smaller than Rhode Island – Iwokrama Forest is managed by the not-for-profit Iwokrama organization and 16 local Makushi communities. - Looking at 17 key species in the area – including 15 mammals and two large birds – the researchers found that populations didn’t change much between logged and unlogged areas, a sign that Iwokrama’s logging regime is not disturbing the area’s larger taxa.
A new secret runway found in Laguna del Tigre National Park in Guatemala [05/18/2017]
- Such clandestine landing strips are often built in forest reserves by people who claim to be cattle ranchers, but are actually working for drug traffickers. - These illegal structures pose a threat to the Laguna del Tigre National Park. - What does the head of Guatemala’s anti-drug unit think about this new secret runway that has just been discovered?
Audio: Bill Laurance on the “infrastructure tsunami” sweeping the planet [05/17/2017]
- We recently heard Bill argue that scientists need to become more comfortable with expressing uncertainty over the future of the planet and to stop “dooming and glooming” when it comes to environmental problems. - We wanted to hear more about that, as well as to hear from Bill about the “global road map” he and his team recently released to help mitigate the environmental damage of what he calls an “infrastructure tsunami” breaking across the globe. - We also welcome to the program Michelle LaRue, a research ecologist with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Earth Sciences. Her current work is focused on using high-resolution satellite imagery to study the population dynamics of Weddell seals in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. - In this Field Notes segment, Michelle will also play for us some of the calls made by adult Weddell seals and their pups, which couldn’t be more different from each other and are really quite remarkable, each in their own way. But you really have to hear them to believe them.
Anti-trafficking activist held without trial in Madagascar [05/08/2017]
- Clovis Razafimalala has been working to end rosewood trafficking in Madagascar since 2009. - He has been imprisoned since September on charges of unauthorized rebellion and burning state files and property during a protest he maintains he did not participate in. - No trial date has been announced, although one is supposed to be set by May 26. - Activists say his case raises concern for the civil rights of Malagasy environmental activists.
Indigenous groups, activists risk arrest to blockade logging in Malaysia [05/08/2017]
- Blockades are being set up in peninsular Malaysia’s northern state of Kelantan by groups that say logging activities are damaging forests and the surrounding environment. - Kelantan has seen more forest clearing in recent years as the state ramps up tree plantation development. - Activist groups say forestry departments are granting forest access to logging companies, while restricting access to forest-dependent communities. - Malaysian courts ruled recently that forests being targeted by logging companies belong to indigenous Orang Asli communities.
A fight to control chainsaws in Myanmar could turn the tide on illegal logging [05/04/2017]
- In remote areas where illegal logging is most rampant, officials struggle with outreach to poor villagers about recently implemented laws that make most chainsaws illegal. - Many times faster and more efficient than traditional handsaws and axes, chainsaws are also dangerous tools that can cause serious injury or death. - Unregulated chainsaw use is nearly impossible for forestry officials to track or regulate, as most illegal logging is taking place in remote areas that are extremely difficult to reach.
Delicate Solomon Island ecosystem in danger of heavy logging [05/01/2017]
- Foreign and domestic companies are making a push – at times using allegedly unethical means – for the timber found on the island of Nende in the Santa Cruz chain of the Solomon Islands. - The island’s old-growth forests are home to animals like the Santa Cruz shrikebill, which is found nowhere else on Earth. - Concerns have been voiced that logging could wreak havoc on the ecosystem, from the watersheds in the mountains down to the coral reefs ringing the island, if large-scale logging is allowed to proceed.
Corruption drives dealings with logging companies in the Solomon Islands [05/01/2017]
- The old-growth forests on the island of Nende anchor a unique ecosystem that hold creatures found nowhere else and that have supported communities for centuries. - Logging companies are eager to harvest the island’s timber, which could be worth as much as SI$10 million ($1.26 million). - Scientists worry that logging would destroy everything from the mountain sources of the island’s fresh water to the reefs where sedimentation as a result of logging could kill coral. - Conservation groups and sources from within the provincial government have charged that the companies are using coercion and bribes to convince landowners and development organizations to back their plans to log Nende’s forests.
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 [02/24/2017]
- 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. - The alerts enable a user to sign up for daily or weekly notifications via email on topics they select. - Our current topic list includes dozens of topics and locations.
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 [12/31/2016]
- 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 [08/02/2016]
- 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.