A newly released economic and ecological valuation assessment of illegal logging inside the Chiquibul Forest, released this morning, reveals that Belize has lost an estimated BZ$23 million as a result of those activities.
The details were provided at a forum held at the Belmopan Convention Hotel by Friends for Conservation and Development – an NGO which was formed in 1989.
Boris Arevalo, FCD researcher and general manager of Las Cuevas Forest Station, revealed that the “zone of influence” affected by illegal logging has expanded from 18,167 hectares in 2010 to 26,642 ha in 2011 — an increase of 46.6%. It increased a further 28.3% by mid-2012, now putting the area under pressure by illegal logging at 34,189 ha at mid-2012. This represents nearly 20% of the Chiquibul, which spans 176,000 ha.
FCD notes that illegal logging by Guatemalans has eclipsed the Caracol Archaeological Reserve — which has furthermore suffered from looting of over 90% of its Mayan sites on account of illegal logging forays into Belize. There has also been wildlife poaching associated with these activities.
Arevalo said that the reach of illegal loggers has gone beyond the Chiquibul National Park and is now expanding into the Chiquibul Forest Reserve. FCD reports illegal logging 11.5 km (over 7 miles) into Belize, measuring from its western border with Guatemala.
As for economic losses, FCD’s assessment indicates that there has been US$4.2 million in cedar and US$5.2 million in mahogany, plus US$2 mil in carbon credit value. Government has also lost more than half-a-million US dollars in royalty earnings.
FCD also points to excessive waste in the illegal logging operations. About 2 million board feet have been left to rot on the forest floor. These wasted logs value US$2 million, and FCD recommends a salvage operation.
FCD notes that since the organization first noted the problem of illegal logging back in 2006, the Government has so far been unable to put in place effective enforcement deterrents.
Since loggers operate randomly and often at night, FCD recommends a constant presence of a law enforcement unit inside the Chiquibul.
Also among their recommendations is the establishment of a multi-sectoral task group led by the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development and chaired by ‘a high-level champion’, to address the exacerbating problem of illegal logging.