Cabinet announced on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, that it has endorsed the controversial moratorium on the harvesting and exportation of rosewood extracted from the Toledo and Stann Creek Districts, a moratorium which was declared last Friday, March 16, 2012, following a ministerial decision by Lisel Alamilla, the new Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development and Indigenous Peoples.
However, a busload of protestors, who descended on Independence Hill on the day the moratorium was being confirmed by Cabinet, was there to tell the new Barrow administration that the moratorium is costing the protestors their jobs and tens of thousands of dollars in income.
Cabinet had also made a decision that the ministry would “take into consideration those with valid licenses who may have already cut trees with a view to exporting the lumber.”
Speaking with Chief Forest Officer Wilber Sabido today, Amandala was informed that the only clearance that has been given is for 10 containers, with roughly 45,000 board feet of rosewood which had received clearance prior to the moratorium. The exporter, said Sabido, is Kambokin Enterprises Limited.
As for the rosewood on the ground, said Sabido, the Forest Department is not allowing export at this time, because it has to undertake a thorough stocktaking, in order to ensure that they do not legitimize any illegal cutting done during the moratorium.
Sabido told us that their staff that had been dispatched to bolster Toledo operations, in light of the newly effected moratorium, had recently learned via reports from villagers that the illegal cutting of rosewood continues in Toledo, despite the moratorium.
Asked what the penalty is for illegal harvesting, Sabido said that those harvesting illegally or without a permit can face a maximum $1,000 fine or 6 months in prison. If anyone is caught harvesting rosewood illegally, said Sabido, the Forest Department will need to take action.
He also told us that all logging permits for the extraction of rosewood had expired prior to the moratorium. Sabido said that any further cutting of rosewood undermines the moratorium.
The protestors who went to Independence Hill on Tuesday, chanting “Bring back rosewood…” complained of vast joblessness in Toledo and the sudden loss of rosewood income; they are more concerned about making a living than the sustainability of forest resources.