Illegal Logging Footpint Expands Slowly
In the Chiquibul Forest, illegal logging was first detected in 2006. By March 2008, a joint forces patrol documented that illegal logging was escalating and a logging trail network was evident. In late 2009, aerial flights conducted by FCD observed numerous illegal logging clusters. By 2010, joint patrols reported frequent and persistent illegal logging activities.
With financial assistance from the FAO FLEGT Programme, an FCD assessment in 2012 demonstrated that an estimated 5,803,538 board feet of lumber with an aggregated value of USD$9,448,144.00 had been extracted illegally within a perimeter of 34,188.74 hectares. The study proved that illegal logging, together with the advancement of the agricultural frontier, was one of two primary sources of deforestation in Belize’s largest protected area.
Two years later FCD undertook another assessment with the financial assistance of the EU FAO FLEGT Programme and Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT). The study, released this August, shows that a total of 8,725,833 board feet of lumber have been illegally extracted from the Chiquibul Forest, having an estimated monetary value of USD $18,830,387.00. Illegal harvesting intensity was 121 board feet of mahogany and 70.46 board feet of cedar per hectare. This data clearly indicates that illegal loggers have severely impacted the mahogany and cedar populations in the Chiquibul Forest, coupled with the fact that 69% of logged trees fall below the minimum cutting diameter (62 cm) established by law. This occurrence has ecological implications on the targeted populations, such as loss of potential seed trees, necessary for the continued process of natural regeneration.
The only good news at this point is the fact that since November 2014, there has been no record of illegal logging activity in the Chiquibul Forest. FCD, however, remains vigilant, since a spike can occur rather rapidly.