Illegal Logging
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"In Honduras, it is estimated that about 75-85% of hardwood production, and 30-50% of pine production is clandestine.

Much of the rest is 'legalised', legal from the bureaucratic viewpoint since it is accompanied by documents and permits,

 but is produced fraudulently."

 

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National Catholic Reporter
 
   
 May 6, 2005

Honduran priest cites dangers of illegal logging

By AGOSTINO BONO
Catholic News Service

Massive logging operations in Honduras are destroying the environment with little of the wealth generated going for local development for the country’s rural poor, said Fr. José Tamayo Córtez, an environmental activist in the Honduran province of Olancho.

About 85 percent of the logging is illegal, corruption is widespread and the government does not have the political will to enforce environmental protection laws, Tamayo said during a visit to Washington to talk with U.S. church and governmental officials about the situation.

In the past 30 years, two-thirds of the forests in Olancho have been destroyed, he said at an April 21 briefing for officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Olancho is the largest province in Honduras. Environmentalists have complained that massive logging has ruined the province’s once fertile farmland as it has lowered the water table and increased soil erosion.

“Olancho was once the breadbasket of Central America. Now it does not even produce enough grain for the province,” said Tamayo. This is forcing people’s migration to urban areas and eventually their clandestine immigration into the United States, he said.

Tamayo said he is asking foreign countries that provide aid to Honduras to give such aid on the condition the government put in place anticorruption programs and enforce environmental protection laws. Without safeguards, aid money will not benefit the poor, he said. He also favors blocking U.S. imports of Honduran lumber and wood products until the Honduran government agrees to improve the logging situation.

Tamayo is a priest of the Juticalpa diocese, which covers most of Olancho. He is also the moving force behind the Environmental Movement of Olancho, a coalition of subsistence farmers and religious leaders opposed to uncontrolled commercial logging.

In San Francisco April 18, the Honduran priest was awarded the 2005 Goldman Environmental Prize for his grass-roots work. The prize includes a $125,000 award.

In 2003 and 2004, Tamayo led protest marches to the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa to spotlight illegal logging activities.

While in Washington, Tamayo said that Honduran church leaders are slowly coming to understand the problem. Boston-born Bishop Tomas Muldoon of Juticalpa is cautious in his support because of fear that too much activism will provoke violence against environmentalists, said Tamayo.

In July 2003 Carlos Reyes, a staff member of the diocesan environmental ministry, was killed after a series of death threats against environmentalists. A few weeks later Muldoon temporarily suspended the work of 40 lay social ministry workers because of death threats.

National Catholic Reporter, May 6, 2005

Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company

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