More illegal logging of rosewood in the south
If all has gone as scheduled the Forest Department, working along with the Police, should be conducting a sweep of South Stann Creek. The goal is to crack down on illegal harvesting of rosewood which has increased in the dry season. But that increase in activity isn’t limited to the Stann Creek District. In the deep-south rosewood harvesters are also hard at work. To address that situation, Mayan communities have stepped up their vigilance, a sort of unofficial support of the Forest Department whose resources are stretched thin. On Wednesday, villagers from Medina Bank confiscated thirty-one pieces of freshly and illegally cut rosewood. They hauled the logs back to their community, and were distressed when members of the B.D.F. promptly came for them. News Five managed to obtain footage of the rosewood and comments from Mayan stakeholders, thanks to our colleague Juan Caal in PG.
Voice of: Cristina Coc, Maya Leaders Alliance
“We were able to document the pieces that were confiscated by the community. We learned early this morning that in fact the Belize Defence Force had come to the community again and had confiscated all thirty-one of those pieces from the community who had hauled the logs in from the forest. Of course this sent out a lot of alarms for us because one, we needed to clarify where that authority and where that directive was coming from. We also emphasize the fact that the Maya communities own the lands that they live on including the resources that is on that land. And so Medina Bank, as owners of the land that Medina Bank residents reside on, went ahead and confiscated the logs that were illegally confiscated from their lands and viewed those logs as their property. In fact medina Bank was acting in support of what the Forest Department is supposed to be doing to curb the illegal logging that is happening in the Toledo District.”
Mateo Rash, Chairman, Medina Bank
“Our villagers don’t know the people that are extracting this rosewood. We get reports from villagers that people are going in the forest reserve and the land of Medina Bank to take out the rosewood and they don’t know the people and I think they are not from around here.”
“With respect to instances where our leaders are finding illegal rosewood that has been cut, our leaders will continue to confiscate those rosewood and there is a commitment from our communities that these rosewood will not get back in the hands of the perpetrators…the people that are doing the illegal cutting and the illegal sale and exportation of this valuable resource. Instead we continue to encourage our communities, and our communities know that those resources are their property, it was found on their land and only at a community meeting will they decide how those resources will be used within the community.”
According to Coc, the logs were taken by the BDF as part of an operation. She says that she has gotten unofficial confirmation from Chief Forest Officer Wilber Sabido that they will be returned when the operation is complete.