Tag Archive: Environmental Investigation Agency

Crossroads News : Changes In The World Around Us And Our Place In It

Environmental Activism  :  Deforestation – Species Extinction – Wildlife – Preservation –  Jobs Security

Lessons From the US: Stopping Illegal Logging Benefits Both Sides of Politics

By Mark Rey Created


Illegal logging destroys the habitat of threatened species and local people. (CIFOR)

Illegal logging destroys the habitat of threatened species and local people. (CIFOR)

As the Australia Parliament currently debates legislation to fight illegal logging, it’s worth considering the impact of the American and European laws on which the Australian effort is modeled. We may be in a unique position to do so: our long careers in the timber industry led both of us to be strong initiators and advocates of the US Lacey Act, which prohibits the import and trade of illegal wood and wood products.

Our philosophy, like most of the forest products industry, has been to conduct business and manage forests in a way that ensures the timber resources we rely upon will remain healthy and available for future generations.

However, these efforts are severely undermined by illegal loggers, who pillage national parks and protected areas around the world. Some employ slave and child labor, aid drug trafficking, fund terrorism, and spur violent conflict in communities. Illegal logging has devastated forests and wildlife and is a significant driver of the 30 million acres of tropical forest cleared every year.

Many of Australia’s closest neighbors, including Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Indonesia, are struggling with some of the highest levels of illegal logging in the world. A recent example reported by the Environmental Investigation Agency reveals that the palm oil company PT Suryamas Cipta Perkasa illegally cleared a peat forest in central Borneo that contained substantial stands of the valuable hardwood species ramin, illegal to cut in Indonesia. This clearing destroyed the habitat for a population of 600 endangered Bornean orangutans, which—adding insult to injury—the company also paid people to hunt and kill. The livelihoods of the local residents were destroyed along with the forest. One-third of the community moved away.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has prioritized halting illegal deforestation and has called upon importing countries to help by stating,”If you want to do good, let’s work together to sort out the timber industry. Other countries should stop fencing illegally felled timber.”

While illegal logging is a lucrative business for organized criminal operations, it robs developing countries of an estimated $10 billion annually. Logging gangs evade paying fees for use of natural resources, smuggle timber out of forest nations, and do the high-value, job creating work of processing thousands of miles from the communities that depend on the forests for their livelihood. Illegal logging also undercuts companies who play by the rules, making it extremely difficult to compete in the global marketplace and resulting in job losses.

The logging industry and environmentalists are often at each other’s throats: this is something they can work together on. (Still Wild Still Threatened)

The logging industry and environmentalists are often at each other’s throats: this is something they can work together on. (Still Wild Still Threatened)

That’s why, in 2008, we worked with a broad coalition to advance the world’s first prohibition on the import and trade of illegal wood and wood products. Just as in Australia, environmental groups and the timber industry are often at each other’s throats. But when it comes to illegal logging, we’ve found common ground. Supporters of the Lacey Act include everyone from Greenpeace and the Sierra Club to Fortune 500 companies like International Paper and American’s largest landowner, Plum Creek, as well as smaller lumber businesses.

Extraordinarily, support for this law has, for the most part, crossed the partisan divide in America at one of the most politically polarized times in our history. The law emerged from a Bush administration initiative, but was supported as enthusiastically by left wing Democrats as conservative Republicans. Indeed, when the Lacey Act recently came under attack from a politically well-connected importer that was accused of violating it, the law’s opponents couldn’t muster the votes to undermine it.

Coming together to achieve this goal has cut global illegal logging by 22 percent—good news for orangutans, tigers, and communities that depend on forests. And it’s helping to protect the lungs of our planet which are increasingly important as we all face the challenges of climate change.

It’s also been good for the economy. In 2006, the US ran a $20.3 billion deficit with China in forest products; in 2010, the US ran a $600 million surplus. This dramatic reversal is due in large part to the 2008 Lacey Act forest provisions, which spurred many Chinese manufacturers to ask for low risk, legal and sustainable hardwoods. Our domestic resource fit that bill; so would Australia’s.

One country alone cannot fully stop illegal logging, which is driven by a complex global market. With the US Lacey Act, the EU Timber Regulation, and hopefully the Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill joining forces in blocking illegal wood imports, we can continue to make significant progress in curbing global forest crime.

Mark Rey is Executive in Residence, Centre for Systems Integration & Sustainability, Michigan State University.

This article was co-authored by Jameson S. French, the President and CEO of Northland Forest Products, Inc, based in New Hampshire, USA.

Crossroads News : Changes In The World Around Us And Our Place In It

Animal Advocacy : Poaching  – Conservation – Protection


Religious fervor drives elephant slaughter


Legal ivory trade failing to protect elephants

Sumatran elephants


The legal ivory trade is failing to protect elephants which are being slaughtered en mass across the African continent to meet demand for religious trinkets, argues a new investigative report published in National Geographic by Bryan Christy.

The report, researched and written over a three year period, looked at supply and demand the elephant ivory market. It found that substantial quantities of ivory is being used to make religious trinkets including “ivory baby Jesuses and saints for Catholics in the Philippines, Islamic prayer beads for Muslims and Coptic crosses for Christians in Egypt, amulets and carvings for Buddhists in Thailand, and in China—the world’s biggest ivory-consumer country—elaborate Buddhist and Taoist carvings for investors,” according to a post on National Geographic News.

Ivory is coming primarily from the black market. The cost for elephants is high: a conservative estimate puts the slaughter at 25,000 elephants in 2011 alone.

The article argues that decisions made by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the organization that sets policies to regulate trade in wildlife products, have played a critical role in facilitating elephant ivory trafficking. Specifically, one-off ivory sales sanctioned by CITES have buoyed demand for ivory products and confused the marketplace into the legality of elephant ivory.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a group that campaigns against the elephant ivory trade, says Blood Ivory reveals the “enormity and extent of the illegal international trade in ivory” and shows that “the CITES ivory-trading mechanism is profoundly flawed, empirically unsupportable and has itself become a major driver of poaching and the illegal international trade in ivory.” The group is calling for a re-evaluation of CITES’ policies.

Published on Jul 12, 2012 by

http://www.euronews.com/ Mafia groups are making billions from environmental crime, new research has found. Dumping toxic waste, illegal logging and trafficking of endangered species are just some of the many crimes according to a report called ‘Eco-Mafia 2012’ by Legambiente.

Other environmental groups also claim the EU is currently failing to tackle the issue seriously.

Julian Newman, Campaign Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, said: “The problem with these crimes is that they are often seen as low priorities, not given much in the way of resources. If contraband is stopped, it hardly ever leads to prosecution, yet, these are crimes which deserve a strong response from Europe and globally, because the impact of these crimes affect us all.”

In Italy alone the Mafia is said to have earned some 16 billion euros last year through eco-crime. Despite that, some MEPs insist Europe can learn from Italian authorities on how to combat the mobsters.

“We can’t expect to keep uncovering criminality if we don’t use the same methods that proved so successful in Italy: I’m talking about attacking criminals by seizing and confiscating assets,” MEP Sonia Alfano said.

An EU parliament select committee on organised crime said more coordination between law enforcement agencies like Interpol and OLAF is needed to stem the current destructive tide.

BANGKOK June 20, 2012, 05:35 am ET

BANGKOK (AP) — The eulogies called Chut Wutty one of the few remaining activists in Cambodia brave enough to fight massive illegal deforestation by the powerful. The environmental watchdog was shot by a military policeman in April as he probed logging operations in one of the country’s last great forests.

Nisio Gomes was the chief of a Brazilian tribe struggling to protect its land from ranchers. Masked men gunned him down in November; his body, quickly dragged into a pickup, has not been seen since.

Around the world, sticking up for the environment can be deadly, and it appears to be getting deadlier.

People who track killings of environmental activists say the numbers have risen dramatically in the last three years. Improved reporting may be one reason, they caution, but they also believe the rising death toll is a consequence of intensifying battles over dwindling supplies of natural resources, particularly in Latin America and Asia.

Killings have occurred in at least 34 countries, from Brazil to Egypt, and in both developing and developed nations, according to an Associated Press review of data and interviews.

A report released Tuesday by the London-based Global Witness said more than 700 people — more than one a week — died in the decade ending 2011 “defending their human rights or the rights of others related to the environment, specifically land and forests.” They were killed, the environmental investigation group says, during protests or investigations into mining, logging, intensive agriculture, hydropower dams, urban development and wildlife poaching.

The death toll reached 96 in 2010 and 106 last year, said the report, which was released as world leaders gathered in Rio de Janeiro for a conference on sustainable development. The report’s annual totals for the six prior years range from 37 in 2004 to 64 in 2008.

More than three-quarters of the killings Global Witness tallied were in three South American countries: Brazil, Colombia and Peru. Another 50 deaths occurred in the Philippines. All have bloody land-rights struggles between indigenous groups and powerful industries.

Global Witness’ figures are much higher that those that Bill Kovarik, a communications professor at Virginia’s Radford University, has been compiling since 1996. He focuses on slayings of environmental leaders and does not include deaths in protests that are counted in the Global Witness report. But Kovarik, too, has noticed a substantial jump: from eight in 2009 to 11 in 2010 and 28 last year.

“For many years intolerant regimes like Russia and China and military dictatorships tolerated environmental activists. That was the one thing you could do safely, until some crossed into the political area,” Kovarik said. “Now, environmentalism has become a dangerous form of activism, and that is relatively new.”

Both Kovarik and Global Witness believe even more killings have gone unreported, especially in relatively closed societies in countries such as Myanmar, Laos and China. Global Witness said there is an “alarming lack of systematic information on killing in many countries and no specialized monitoring at the international level.”

The dead last year included Rev. Fausto Tentorio, an Italian Catholic priest who fought against mining companies to protect the ancestral lands of the Manobo tribe in the southern Philippines. Affectionately known as “Father Pops,” he was buried in a coffin made from a favorite mahogany tree he had planted.

In Thailand, where at least 20 environmental activists have been killed over the past decade, seven hired gunmen were paid $10,000 to kill Thongnak Sawekchinda, a veteran campaigner against polluting, coal-fired factories in his province near Bangkok. Powerful figures believed to have ordered the slaying are yet to be apprehended.

In developing countries, bolder and more numerous activists have come into sharper conflict with governments and their cronies or local and foreign companies, some with low environmental and ethical standards. These are moving in to “industrialize” areas where rights of the local people are traditional rather than clearly defined by modern laws.

“It is a well-known paradox that many of the world’s poorest countries are home to the resources that drive the global economy. Now, as the race to secure access to these resources intensifies, it is poor people and activists who increasingly find themselves in the firing line,” Global Witness said.

Julian Newman of the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency said the killings will only get worse because one of the key flashpoints — land ownership — ignites powerful passions.

“To people protecting their lands, their forests, it’s very personal, and they suffer when confronted with influential forces who have protection, be it the police in Indonesia or thugs in China,” Newman said.

Targeted assassinations, disappearances followed by confirmed deaths, deaths in custody and during clashes with security forces are being reported. The killers are often soldiers, police or private security guards acting on behalf of businesses or governments. Credible investigations are rare; convictions more so.

“It’s so easy to get someone killed in some of these countries. Decapitate the leader of the movement and then buy off everyone else — that’s standard operating procedure,” says Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director of Human Rights Watch.

The countries where environmental killings are most common share similarities: a powerful few, with strong links to officialdom, and many poor and disenfranchised dependent on land or forests for livelihoods, coupled with strong activist movements which are more likely to report the violence.

Environmental groups say it is time to build a comprehensive database of such violence and mount unified campaigns.

“In Asia there has been a rise for some years but this has been off the radar of international NGOs until recently,” says Pokpong Lawansiri, Asia head for the Dublin-based Front Line Defenders. “Political rights activists usually have international connections but environmental ones are often teachers, community leaders and villagers, so they have little profile.”

Robertson called for “a waves-to-the-beach strategy. It can be small and irregular but it always has to keep coming.”

“Without that constant level of concern and anger, things won’t change. Governments and companies play for time and for most of the victims and their families time is not on their side,” he said.