375 Latin America

–Mexico: 1) Mangrove protection keeps fishing industry afloat
–Brazil: 2) New forest monitoring satellite in 2011, 3) Minister lies about deforestation increases, 4) Xenophobia spreads among gov. leaders, 5) Pact for Legal and Sustainable Timber, 6) ‘self-suspended’ FSC certifier loses court decision,
–Guatemala: 7) Mel Gibson speaks on Mirador Basin Project, 8) Carmelita forest concession, 9) Alternative forest products,
–Guyana: 10) Sawmill reacts to Gov fines by firing 300 people / shutting down, 11) Lost Land of the Jaguar,



1) A study of the fishing industry off the west coast of Mexico has measured the financial consequences of mangrove forest destruction. The scientists behind the study say this is the first detailed research to put a dollar value on the potentially irreparable damage being done to these coastal ecosystems. Mangrove trees form forests that grow at the edge of the sea, and provide a home for a wide variety of species. Octavio Aburto-Oropeza of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, and his colleagues selected 13 marine regions around the Gulf of California and on Baja California’s lower Pacific Coast. Baja California is sparsely populated, and the mainland Gulf states of Sonora, Sinaloa and Nayarit largely have natural coastlines, where fishing is a vital source of food and income. Within these 13 regions, the authors looked at fisheries records of about 9,150 fish landings between 2001 and 2005. The crucial zone within these regions is the seaward ‘mangrove fringe’, just 5–10 metres wide, where tide-flooded red mangrove plants (Rhizophora mangle) provide feeding grounds or nursery habitats for many species. During that period, fishermen averaged annual hauls of 10,500 tonnes of fish and blue crab, worth US$19 million for the 13 regions combined. Roughly one third of all the small-scale fisheries landings in the area were of fish species which rely on mangroves as a habitat. This economic value reinforces the need for governments to preserve mangroves, the researchers say. “Without a coastal mangrove ecosystem, the cost of food can only increase,” says Aburto-Oropeza. In the past, the Mexican government has sold mangrove areas for around $1,000 per hectare. Yet the study by Aburto-Oropeza et al. shows that, on an annual basis, mangrove zones produce a median value of $37,500 per hectare. “And governments need to think about a generational value,” adds Aburto-Oropeza. His team estimated that, considered over a 30-year-period, the mangroves should be valued at more than $600,000 per hectare. http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080721/full/news.2008.966.html


2) Brazil will launch a satellite in 2011 to monitor deforestation and urban expansion around the world, it has been announced. Amazônia-1 will carry a UK-made high resolution camera. The United Kingdom—Brazil collaboration was announced last week (14 July) at the 60th Annual Meeting of the Brazilian Society for Progress in Science. It is part of the continuing UK—Brazil Partnership in Science and Innovation, and stems from discussions between governments and research partners that began in 2007 during the UK—Brazil Year of Cooperation on Science and Technology. Amazônia-1 will orbit the Earth 14 times a day at a distance of 400 miles, collecting images of several countries. It will have three cameras in total, two of them made in Brazil and one made in the UK. The UK camera, RALCam 3, will be made by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory based in Oxfordshire, and will provide images with each photo pixel showing ten metres of actual terrain — a technology without precedent in a Brazilian satellite. The photos will aid environmental observation and inform natural resources management. It will be easier, for example, to identify illegal activity in forests, particularly in the Amazon and Congo rainforests, the two largest in the world. Other applications include mapping of remote areas, and coastal and disaster monitoring. ‘A few weeks after the launch, the satellite will start sending information,’ Thyrson Villela, director for satellites and applications at the Brazilian Space Agency, told SciDev.Net. The data will then be freely available to Brazilian research centres and those in countries all over the world. Having access to this information will help other tropical forest countries to fight their environment issues. http://www.environmental-expert.com/resultEachPressRelease.aspx?cid=4791&codi=34575&idproduct

3) The environment minister on Tuesday revised downward the forecast for Brazilian Amazon rain forest deforestation in 2008, based on a slight slow-down in May statistics. But independent government experts said the May data were inconclusive because clouds obscured more than half the forest from satellite images. A preliminary analysis by the government’s Space Research Institute showed 423 square miles (1,096 square kilometers) of rain forest were cut down in May, down from 440 square miles (1,140 square kilometers) in April. At a news conference in Brasilia, Environment Minister Carlos Minc estimated that deforestation in 2008 would reach about 5,000 square miles (13,000 square kilometers) of rain forest cleared, down from earlier forecasts of between 5,400-5,800 square miles (14,000-15,000 square kilometers). Brazil’s Amazon lost 4,250 square miles (11,000 square kilometers) of rain forest in 2007. The Space Research Institute warned, however, that it was too early to say whether rain forest destruction was slowing because 53 percent of the rain forest was obscured by clouds in the satellite photos taken in May. http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/07/15/america/LA-Brazil-Amazon-Destruction.php

4) With Amazon deforestation accelerating, Brazilian politicians and senior officials are increasingly portraying foreign groups working in the forest as a threat to national security that need to be reined in. Invading armies, theft of medicinal plants, spying and land grabs are among the specters being raised by officials in Brasilia to justify tougher measures such as limits on land ownership and restrictions on environmental groups’ activities. Nationalists, especially in military and intelligence circles, have long harbored conspiracy theories that foreigners are scheming to take Amazon resources. But in recent months — a period that has coincided with a spike in destruction of the world’s largest forest — they have become louder and more public. Some legislators are concerned about foreign businesses buying land in the Amazon. “The growing acquisition of land by foreigners in the Amazon is a threat to our national security, we need to impose restrictions now,” Sen. Joao Pedro told Reuters. The government accuses some non-governmental organizations of biopiracy — stealing medicinal plants for pharmaceutical purposes — but has provided little evidence. The government said this month it could shut down foreign NGOs that fail to provide detailed accounts of their operations. They must register with half a dozen authorities, including the Federal Police, and reveal the qualifications and residence of their directors. “We want to separate the wheat from the chaff,” said Secretary of Justice Romeu Tuma Junior. “The state has the right to demand that those wanting to operate in an area of national interest open their books publicly,” said Tuma. Conservationists say they are being scapegoated and worry about potential censorship. http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN11255782

5) Building on the fruitful cooperation between civil society and industry that produced the July 2006 Brazilian soya moratorium, in which major traders agreed to stop trading in soya grown on newly deforested land, the “Pact for Legal and Sustainable Timber” recognises the importance of voluntary agreements that combine economic production with environmental protection. “In a country where intention and action don’t always meet, the implementation of this agreement by industry and Government will be vital for establishing effective protection for the forests while preserving jobs. It will benefit local communities and promote legal and sustainable logging activities “, said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon Campaign Director. The agreement is a major step towards creating the governance system necessary for reducing deforestation and forest degradation by the Amazon logging sector. Furthermore, the pact meets several long-time Greenpeace demands calling for law enforcement, combined with positive incentives for local communities and to that part of the industry committed to environmental sustainability. Pará is the source of 45% of Brazilian Amazon’s sawed timber and is notorious for its high rates of illegal timber activity. It is expected that the pact will strengthen international measures to halt illegal logging, including the recent US decision to ban illegal wood imports (including a wide range of forest products) as part of the Lacey Act. It is also hoped that it might influence current discussions by the European Commission regarding legislation to ban illegal timber from the European market. Some 63% to 80% of the timber produced in the Amazon is illegal. Not only does illegal and intense timber exploitation destroy the livelihoods of local peoples, but it is a major contributor to climate change. Recent science has shown that destruction of tropical forests is responsible for about one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil is currently the fourth largest emitter of Greenhouse gases worldwide, primarily due to the Amazon deforestation. http://7thspace.com/headlines/287233/government_bans_illegal_amazon_timber.html

6) A final blow has been dealt to the credibility of the now ‘self-suspended’ FSC certifier SGS, by a Brazilian Federal court decision that nearly one hundred thousand hectares of eucalyptus plantation owned by SGS-certified company Veracel were planted illegally and will have to be torn down within 12 months. The company has also been ordered to pay $12 million in fines for causing environmental damage. Given the seriousness of the failures with the Veracel certification, combined with what have evidently been gross certification failures in other countries including Guyana, Spain and Poland, FSC-Watch believes that the FSC Secretariat should now impose a global and indefinite suspension on SGS’s FSC accreditation. The painstaking process should then begin of investigating all SGS-issued certificates to check for other major failures of SGS’s certification systems, and cancelling them where necessary – starting with Veracel itself, which as of today’s date remains FSC certified. We provide below, in Portguese, the full press statement of July 10th from the Federal Court, preceded by a summary in English, provided by a contributor. http://www.fsc-watch.org/archives/2008/07/14/Millions_of_FSC_cert


7) Hollywood actor and producer Mel Gibson flew across the world to speak about his passion – the Mirador Basin Project. Unknown to many, the Mirador Basin in Guatemala is the last tract of virgin rainforest remaining in Central America. More importantly, it is home to the largest and earliest cities of the Maya world. “This is indeed the biggest ‘green’ project that I’ve stepped into and I am very passionate about it. “I am absolutely in love with the project and struck by wonders of what can be found,” said Gibson, who is here to address Malaysian corporate leaders and environmentalists on the project as well as to raise funds and create awareness. “It is not developed and there are no roads. It is good that there are no roads so people will not be able to burn the landscape and log,” he said. Gibson, who is chairman of Foundation for Anthropological Research and Environmental Studies (Fares), is already working with local company Petra Group and the Sekhar Foundation to further develop the project. http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/7/18/nation/21845829&sec=nation

8) Today we interviewed Juan Trujillo of Rainforest Alliance, current acting mayor of Carmelita, former president of the Carmelita forest concession. Trujillo describes himself as a skeptic-turned-believer in the concessions concept over the 11-year evolution of Carmelita’s concession. The concession, with its assembly, committees and elected leaders, is a much a political body as an economic cooperative for the harvesting and marketing of forest products. Trujillo says that he is in favor of the development of a large archaeological park in Peten, if and only if local concessions are given a stake early in process. If communities are trained and financially supported so that locals can lead ecotourism businesses, and if additional educational resources are provided granting locals access to university education in fields such as archaeology, the development of ecotourism could be a huge boon for the region, he maintains. However he warns that the creation of a no-cut zone canceling existing sustainable logging rights could backfire, leading people who now survive through sustainable logging enterprises to practice slash-and-burn agriculture or ranching. Trujillo also reports that talks are underway to try to secure carbon sequestration income for the concession areas. In partnership with Rainforest Alliance, community concessions are seeking compensation for their prevention of deforestation in the region. This income would supplement the current revenue from sustainable logging practices and the harvesting of non-timber forest products. It would not require the end of logging activities. No carbon sequestration dollars have yet been received. As I learn more about the various options for economic development in the region, I am reminded how much long-term planning matters in the struggle to meet immediate economic needs. http://www.futureofpeten.com/2008/07/15/community-leaders-in-flores/

9) UAXACTÚN — Everyone in this village down a muddy, rutted road, 23 km past the world-famous Maya archaeological site of Tikal, knows how to “xatear.” The verb, which would stump most Guatemalans, means “to cut xate,” a decorative plant used in floral arrangements in the United States and elsewhere. But as obscure as the word may sound to outside ears, it’s a core activity for most of this village of fewer than 1,000 people. On Friday we accompanied two teams of xate harvesters out into the thick forests that surround Uaxactún who were equipped with not much more than rubber boots, two kinds of knives and large bundles for trudging home the delicate leaves. What struck me was that at least in one village, the hope of sustainable development through low-impact forest product harvesting was possible, as many of the the environmental activists were saying. Villagers earn about US $10 a day cutting the plant when it’s in season, and supplement that with the collection of breadnut, chicle for chewing gum and allspice. During the spring they also cut some timber. But the village’s NGO-monitored sustainable logging community timber concession has managed to keep the area more than 90 percent forest, an accomplishment that many other nearby timber concessions cannot point to. Some of those neighboring concessions are in such bad shape, with the spread of illegal fires, large-scale farms and cattle ranching, that the environmental nonprofit organizations that helped set them up are trying to close them down, hoping their failure won’t drag down the good name of the success stories. http://www.futureofpeten.com/2008/07/20/sustainable-forest-agriculture-spawns-its-own-verb/


10) Toolsie Persaud Limited has closed its forestry and sawmilling operations, sending home 300 workers. The company announced the indefinite closure in a notice in the press, yesterday. This comes in the wake of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) sanctioning the company for breaches of forestry regulations. The company had obtained a court order restraining the GFC from acting on a cease work order placed on Toolsie Persaud Limited, after forestry breaches were discovered. In April this year, the Ministry of Agriculture said an audit in the latter part of 2007 revealed that the company was guilty of harvesting in at least 27 blocks for which complete inventory information were not submitted to nor approved by the GFC. The company was also said to have breached the guidelines by harvesting in two blocks which were not stated in Annual Operation Plan for 2007. The notice in the press said: “It is very much regretted that due to circumstances beyond our control, TPL Georgetown Sawmill and Manaka Logging Concession [have] been forced to shut down operations with immediate effect, until further notice.” The company also said that a further announcement will be made “as soon as we are in a position to resume operations. http://guyanaforests.blogspot.com/2008/07/after-sanctions-for-breaching-forestry.html

11) The BBC’s new wildlife series, Lost Land of the Jaguar starting later this month, brings an international team of scientists, climbers and film-makers to the Guyanese rainforest in search of elusive wildlife including Jaguar and Giant River Otter. Journey through breathtaking rainforest in search of rare mammals and colourful birdlife, swim under cascading waterfalls, travel in dug-out canoes and meet Amerindian communities during Trips Worldwide’s off-the-beaten-track, 14–day Guyana Nature Experience. Locally named ‘The Land of Many Waters’ Guyana has few roads, so small plane or riverboat is the only way to access most of the country – of which 80% is covered by virgin rainforest. From Georgetown, transfer to Cara Lodge for an initial 2-nights. Enjoy a day trip to Kaieteur Falls – five times the height of Niagara Falls, and enjoy a natural Jacuzzi at Orinduik Falls – made from solid jasper. Transfer by plane over rainforest, and boat along Essequibo River, to Iwokrama Field Station. Search for elusive Jaguar in Iwokrama forest, an area rapidly gaining international repute for increasing populations of the world’s third-largest feline. Journey to Turtle Mountain (360m) for breathtaking views over the forest canopy and visit Kurupukari Falls to see the Amerindian petroglyphs (dependent on the water level). View the forest from 35m up in the canopy at Iwokrama Canopy Walkway before continuing on to Surama where escorted walks allow for further explorations in the surrounding forest and opportunities to meet local people. Take a dawn walk across the savannah and climb Surama Mountain where breakfast is enjoyed from a look out point offering incredible views across to the Pakaraima Mountains. Visit Karanambu Ranch, home of Diane McTurk, known for her work rehabilitating orphaned Giant River Otters. Finally, return to Georgetown for a tour of the city’s sights including St. George’s Cathedral, the famous Stabroek Market and the National Museum, before homeward flights. http://www.easier.com/view/Travel/Holidays/article-191542.html

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