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Brazil: Amazon Mahogany Logging Sharply Restricted

by Dan BermanGreenwire
December 6th, 2001

The Brazilian government yesterday announced the closure of all but two mahogany logging operations in the Amazon, and announced it would require certification for all logging management plans adjacent to Indian lands and conservation areas.

The announcement comes after campaigns by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups to expose alleged organized illegal logging operations in the Amazon forest. A report issued by Greenpeace in October said timber barons are using legitimate permits to launder exports and falsify inventories.

Ibama, the Brazilian environmental agency, instituted a freeze on mahogany logging, transport and export in late October to make way for an investigation into illegal logging operations (see the 10/29 Greenwire).

"The impacts of this are massive, absolutely massive," said Aaron Bannon of Greenpeace. "We didn't expect anything like this for years."

The action allows two mahogany logging operations that are seeking independent certification as "well-managed" forest operations by the Forest Stewardship Council to remain open, but gave no indication as to when any of the other 11 areas may reopen.

But Ibama has not outlined the certification procedures or standards it will impose on the logging industry, and its timetable is "anyone's guess," according to Scott Paul of the Greenpeace Forest Campaign. Ibama is "under-resourced and underfinanced," and this action is sure to cause intense political pressure on the agency and Ibama President Hamilton Casara, Paul said. And Ademir Alfeu Federicci, a prominent opponent of illegal logging and dam construction in Brazil, was fatally shot in his home in August. "The steps taken today by Hamilton Casara are some of the most agressive and courageous political acts ever done," Paul added.

Greenpeace campaigners lauded yesterday's decision. "The illegal mahogany industry has for years been driving the destruction of the Amazon," said Paulo Adario, coordinator of Greenpeace's Amazon campaign. "Mahogany is responsible for thousands of miles of illegal roads opening areas of pristine forest to degradation."

"What Brazil did today put them several steps ahead in a market that will be asking for certification," said Paul. "As concerns grow over illegal logging in the global marketplace, importers will be looking to buy from trustworthy, well-managed sources.

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