Diagram showing the fragile process of forest management plans in Brazil and they are corrupted by criminal logging interests to commercialize illegal timber. Graphic: Greenpeace

By Jenny Gonzales
24 May 2018

(Mongabay) – Brazil’s Ipê tree is one of the most valuable tree species in the world, and a chief target for illicit deforestation, with primary export markets for its illegally harvested timber especially found in the U.S. and Europe.

In the past, a weak licensing system, along with continued indiscriminate, illicit logging of Ipê (formerly Tabebuia spp., but reclassified as Handroanthus spp.), has caused serious damage to the Amazon rainforest according to a Greenpeace Brazil investigation.

The high value of Ipê wood — which made into flooring or decking can sell for up to US $2,500 per cubic meter at Brazilian export terminals — makes it very profitable for loggers, even though they must penetrate deep into forests to harvest the trees.

The resulting environmental harm is severely impacting the Brazilian Amazon, says the report, with deep encroachment by illegal roads, increased forest degradation and fragmentation, harm to biodiversity, and intensification of violence in rural areas.

The report, Imaginary Trees, Real Destruction reveals that “the illegal logging of Ipê trees is facilitated by weaknesses in the state-level licensing process for forest management plans,” a problem that the federal government is seeking to solve with a national inventory and tracking system.

A Greenpeace field investigation conducted in Southwest Pará state found that corrupt forest engineers fake forest inventories by deliberately misidentifying undesirable trees as commercially valuable species, overestimating the volume of valuable trees, or listing non-existent specimens. State agencies, relying on these fraudulent inventories, then issue credits that allow the harvesting and shipping of non-existent timber. These wildly inflated forest credits are then used to “cook the books” at sawmills that illegally process Ipê trees cut within protected Brazilian conservation units or on indigenous reserves.

The high rate of fraud and the commonplace laundering of illegally harvested Ipê trees is made easier due to an absence of government conducted field surveys in areas with approved Sustainable Forest Management Plans (PMFS), and also, until this month, by the lack of an integrated national licensing system for timber in Brazil.

While some perpetrators are caught, many more escape detection.

As a result,” At present, it is safe to say that it is almost impossible to guarantee if timber from the Brazilian Amazon originated from legal operations, let alone from operations that do not violate human rights or environmental laws,” says Greenpeace Brazil’s Amazon campaigner, Rômulo Batista.

“Brazil urgently needs a forest governance and an enforcement system capable of ensuring that all timber logged in the Brazilian Amazon is extracted legally and with full regard to the rights of its Indigenous peoples and other traditional inhabitants,” he says. [more]

Illegal loggers ‘cook the books’ to harvest Amazon’s most valuable tree

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