Rainforest Action Network
Brazil extends moratorium on cutting mahogany
By Michael Astor, Associated Press
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva extended a
six-year-old moratorium on logging mahogany for another 150 days on Thursday
to allow a commission to examine options for sustainable harvesting.
The tropical hardwood is one of the most valuable tree species in the Amazon
region. Logging it has caused much rainforest destruction.
But logging also accounts for about 15 percent of the economy in the
Brazilian Amazon and is responsible for about half a million jobs in the
poor and sparsely populated region. The ministry estimates that mahogany
logging between 1971 and 2001 generated about US$3.9 billion for Brazil.
Many scientists believe tropical hardwood species can be logged in a
sustainable way using a series of practices that allow valuable trees to be
cut down with a minimum of impact to the surrounding forest. There are areas
then left untouched for decades to allow the forest to regenerate.
Because no study has accompanied the forest regeneration over the 40 or 50
years a mahogany tree needs to grow to maturity, the efficacy of these
practices remains unproven.
In November, the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species
voted to limit trade of bigleaf mahogany by listing it as a threatened
species. Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru -- the countries with the largest
mahogany reserves -- opposed the measure, claiming their conservation
measures were sufficient to protect the tree.
The newly formed commission that will look at sustainable harvesting also
has been charged with making sure Brazil complies with endangered species
convention, the ministry said.
The current moratorium prohibits mahogany logging except by companies that
had management plans approved by Brazil's environmental protection agency
prior to 1996, when the measure took effect. According to the environmental
protection agency, there were almost no companies with approved management
The agency has seized more than hundreds of thousands of cubic meters
(yards) of illegally logged mahogany since the moratorium was put in place,
likely only a fraction of what made its way to market.
Some environmental groups have criticized the moratorium, saying that by
making virtually all mahogany logging illegal, loggers have little incentive
to employ forestry management practices.
Source: Associated Press