Monthly Archives: December 2011

Timber traffickers targeted by forest management body


HA NOI — The forest management sector is planning stricter measures to fight timber trafficking following a recent spate of illegal activities.

In a meeting in the capital on Tuesday, the Director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)’s Department of Forest Management, Nguyen Huu Dung, said that the country annually lost nearly 32,000ha of forest due to informal deforestation.

This year alone, more than 1,960ha of forest had been destroyed, an increase by 15 per cent compared to last year.

Hot spots included northern Bac Kan Province alongside Central Highlands provinces and coastal southern provinces, he said.

“Timber traffickers utilise sophisticated measures in transporting timber,” he added.

Early last month, forest managers apprehended 15 train coaches transporting different kinds of rare timber from the south to Gia Lam Station in Ha Noi and northern Bac Ninh Province’s Tu Son District.

On December 7, an official from central Nghe An Province’s Pu Huong Forest Management Unit was charged with abetting truck loads of timber headed from Tuong Duong District to Quy Hop District. The trucks involved eventually overturned, killing 10 people and injuring four others.

Pham Van Cong, a representative from the Ministry of Public Security, said that some forest managers assisted in forest destruction due to low and insufficient salaries.

To resolve the problem, MARD should re-adjust salaries to ensure worker satisfaction, he said.

Ha Cong Tuan, deputy director of the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry, said that in the future, more investigations would be carried out to bust traffic rings.

Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat called for better management of timber processing and border trading.

Timber imported from Cambodia and Laos will be required to obtain certificates from forest management offices to pass through Viet Nam’s border gates.

The ministry would use State funds to support organisations and individuals in preventing illegal deforestation, Phat said.

During the dry season next year, the central steering committee on forestry will set up six inspection teams to regulate forestry management and fire prevention in cities and provinces. — VNS

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UN launches Decade on Biodiversity to stem loss of ecosystems


UN launches Decade on Biodiversity to stem loss of ecosystems

The United Nations marks its Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020

17 December 2011 –

The United Nations today launched the Decade on Biodiversity with Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon urging humanity to live in harmony with nature and to preserve and properly manage its riches for the prosperity of current and future generations. 

“Ensuring truly sustainable development for our growing human family depends on biological diversity and the vital goods and services it offers,” Ban said in his message to the launch event delivered on his behalf by Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, in the Japanese city of Kanazawa.


“While the poor suffer first and worst from biodiversity loss, all of society stands to lose from this mass extinction. There are also the opportunity costs what cures for disease, and what other useful discoveries, might we never know of because a habitat is destroyed forever, or land is polluted beyond all use?”


The General Assembly previously declared the period 2011-2020 as United Nations Decade on Biodiversity to promote the implementation of a strategic plan on biodiversity and its overall vision of living in harmony with nature.


The main goal is to mainstream biodiversity at different levels. Throughout the Decade, governments are encouraged to develop, implement and communicate the results of national strategies for implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity.


In his own statement at the launch of the Decade, Mr. Akasaka stressed that stable ecosystems have the capacity to create jobs.


“Sustaining them sustains job growth,” he said. “With the world undergoing a youth bulge, sustainable use of biodiversity is not an isolated ‘ecological’ green approach, but an indispensable pillar of sustainable development for future generations,” said Mr. Akasaka.


Human activities have caused the extinction of plants and animals at some hundreds or thousands of times faster than what the natural rate would have been, Mr. Akasaka pointed out.


“We cannot reverse extinction. We can, however, prevent future extinction of other species right now. For the next 10 years our commitment to protecting more than eight million species, and our wisdom in contributing to a balance of life, will be put to a test,” he said.

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New Study: 75 Percent of U.S. Animals Internationally Recognized as in Peril Lack Protection of Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release, December 15, 2011

Contact: Bert Harris, 61 451852859,
Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

New Study: 75 Percent of U.S. Animals Internationally Recognized as in Peril
Lack Protection of Endangered Species Act

Highlights Need for More Funding, Faster Process Under Act

PORTLAND, Ore.— A study published in the international journal Conservation Letters this month found that nearly 75 percent of U.S. animals, or about 531 species, that are classified as imperiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature are not protected under the Endangered Species Act. The study highlights the need for more funding for the Act as well as an expedited protection process.

“Our study found that hundreds of imperiled animals are not receiving the protection they need to survive,” said Bert Harris, lead author of the study and a graduate student at the University of Adelaide in Australia. “The Endangered Species Act is the world’s most effective law for saving species, but it can only work if species are protected as threatened or endangered.”

Many of the animals identified in the study have been under consideration for protection for years, but got caught in a large backlog of species needing protection at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under a settlement agreement reached in July between the agency and the Center for Biological Diversity, many of these species will get protection decisions in the next five years, including the Gunnison sage grouse, Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, Florida bonneted bat, Kittlitz’s murrelet, Jollyville plateau salamander and Oregon spotted frog.

“Our settlement agreement is a good first step toward protecting animals that desperately need the lifeline of the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “But even with our settlement, this study shows, there are hundreds of species not even being considered for protection under the Act. It would be a tragedy if America’s incredible heritage of native wildlife vanished from the Earth just because we were too cheap and bureaucratic to protect it.”

In total, the study identified 18 mammals, 25 birds, 44 amphibians and 444 invertebrates that are considered imperiled by IUCN — the foremost international authority on the conservation status of animals and plants — and may need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

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Indonesia to probe beheadings of farmers



JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia’s president has ordered an investigation into the videotaped beheadings of two men — allegedly by security forces hired to secure the borders of a palm oil plantation.

Six suspects — five plantation workers and a farmer — already have been arrested for their alleged role in the deaths, national police spokesman Col. Boy Raffli Amar said Friday. Eight other suspects are at large.

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest producers of palm oil — used to make everything from lipstick to biscuits to biofuel — and the rapid expansion of plantations across the sprawling archipelagic nation of 240 million has led to many violent disputes with local communities.

Land is often forcibly seized — also by timber, pulp and paper companies — without any offers of compensation. But the allegations by farmers from South Sumatra province, if confirmed, would be by far the most shocking so far.

A dozen men, accompanied by a retired general, traveled to the capital, Jakarta, earlier this week to present their case before Parliament’s human rights commission.

They told its members at least 30 farmers have been killed by security forces and men hired by a palm oil company in Mesuji district since 2009 — two of them beheaded in April.

They presented two video clips as evidence, though one appears to be unrelated to the dispute.

In the first, a decapitated corpse is shown hanging from an electricity pole in Mesuji, according to witnesses. Then it jumps to another headless body on the ground, masked men, some toting assault rifles, milling about in the background.

Next, two bloody heads are shown on the roof of a truck, also in Mesuji.

The other clip appears to be unrelated, however, possibly from the separatist insurgency in southern Thailand, judging from the dialect and words of the assailant.

It shows a man dressed in camouflage standing in the woods, an assault rifle slung over his shoulder, holding onto a freshly severed head by the hair. “Fathoni Darussalam,” he says triumphantly, using the cry of Pattani separatists in southern Thailand. “Freedom! Freedom!”

Ifdhal Kasim, who heads the National Commission on Human Rights, condemned the killings.

But the details, he said, remain very murky.

There appear to have been several, separate deadly clashes in the last year between farmers and three palm oil companies in Mesuji — which straddles South Sumatra and Lampung provinces.

As concession sizes grew, he added, thousands of people were driven from their homes.

Facing protests, one of the companies formed an integrated security team, consisting of civilian guards, members of an elite police unit and military troops to protect their plantation, he said.

“It’s not clear who was behind the beheadings or the other killings,” he said. “But if there’s even a hint that security forces were involved, they should be investigated first.”

Farmers also appeared to have killed at least five plantation workers and security guards in retaliation for the beheadings, he said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, meanwhile, said he was shocked by the claims.

He immediately sent a task force made up of officials from the Ministry of Security and the national police to investigate, according to his spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha.

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UN book highlights benefits of Amazon plants and foods to improve livelihoods


20 December 2011 – A United Nations book releasedtoday aims to provide people in the developing world with accessible knowledge of Amazon plants and foods they can use to improve their livelihoods.

The book, Fruit Trees and Useful Plants in Amazonian Life, is written in easy-to-grasp language and incorporates the folklore and customs of rural villagers so they can easily put the book’s recommendations into practice.

“Some 80 per cent of people living in the developing world rely on non-wood forest products such as fruits and medicinal plants for their nutritional and health needs,” said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director-General for Forestry at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Some 80 per cent of people living in the developing world rely on non-wood forest products such as fruits and medicinal plants for their nutritional and health needs.

“This new book provides comprehensive information on Amazon fruits and plants, and is a perfect example of how to make our knowledge accessible for poor people to help them maximize the benefits from forest products and services and improve their livelihoods.”

FAO estimates that 25 per cent of people in developing countries are functionally illiterate, and that in rural areas this figure can be of up to 40 per cent. The layout of the book takes this into account and allows readers who lack formal education to extract knowledge using pictures and numbers.

“Some 90 Brazilian and international researchers who were willing to present their research to rural villagers in alternative formats – including jokes, recipes and pictures – collaborated in the production of this book,” said Tina Etherington, who managed the publication project for FAO’s forestry department.

Ms. Etherington also highlighted that farmers, midwives, hunters and musicians contributed insights and their experiences to the publication, making it an “innovative way of presenting science and how those techniques can be transferred to other areas in the world.”

Some of the foods spotlighted in the publication that provide nutrients, minerals and anti-oxidants that keep the body healthy include the Buriti palm fruit, which contains the highest known levels of vitamin A of any plant in the world and the açaí fruit, which is hailed as a “superfood” for its high antioxidant and omega fatty acid content.

The publication was co-produced by FAO, the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and People and Plants International, and was unveiled in a ceremony in Rome marking the end of the International Year of Forests.

The Amazon is the largest contiguous tropical forest remaining in the world, with 25 million people living in the Brazilian Amazon alone. However, deforestation, fire and climate change could destabilize the region and result in the forest shrinking to one third of its size in 65 years.

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Endangered Woodland Caribou Win Critical Habitat

For Immediate Release, November 29, 2011

Contacts: Mike Leahy, Defenders of Wildlife, (406) 586-3970
Mark Sprengel, Selkirk Conservation Alliance, (208) 448-1110
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Mike Petersen, Lands Council, (509) 209-24


Endangered Woodland Caribou Win Critical Habitat
Federal Wildlife Agency protects more than 375,000 acres in Idaho and Washington for at-risk species

PRIEST LAKE, Idaho— In response to a petition and lawsuit from Defenders of Wildlife, Lands Council, Selkirk Conservation Alliance and the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated 375,562 acres of protected critical habitat in the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho and northeastern Washington for the endangered woodland caribou.

“Christmas has come early for America’s only reindeer relative,” said Mike Leahy, Rocky Mountain director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Critical habitat is an essential tool for recovering endangered species like the woodland caribou, and they deserve our best efforts. The only way to protect endangered animals is to protect the places they live.”

The woodland caribou is perhaps the most endangered species in the continental United States. The southern Selkirk herd of the caribou, which is the only one to occur in the United States, consists of about 45 animals. The southern Selkirk herd belongs to a unique mountain-dwelling form of caribou known as the “mountain ecotype” that, unlike other woodland caribou, do not form large herds or make large migrations. Instead, these caribou migrate between low and high elevation forests.

“The woodland caribou of the Selkirk Mountains are highly endangered and need this habitat protection to survive,” said Mark Sprengel, executive director of the Selkirk Conservation Alliance. “Protecting the caribou means protecting the old-growth forests and wild places of the Selkirks, which are cherished by many.”

Thousands of woodland caribou once roamed the northern United States but were eliminated from all of their habitats except the Selkirk Mountains by a combination of logging of their old-growth forest habitats, hunting and poaching, and roads. They continue to be threatened in their last habitat in the U.S. by disturbance from snow mobiles and other winter recreation.

“With today’s designation of critical habitat, the woodland caribou has a shot at survival,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Woodland caribou are one of the many hidden treasures of the Idaho Panhandle and are definitely worth saving.”

The conservation groups petitioned for critical habitat in 2002 and sued for the critical habitat designation in 2009. In 2005, the groups challenged grooming of snow-mobile trails into caribou habitat on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest and obtained an injunction on snow mobile travel and trail grooming in a small portion of the forest that is essential for the caribou. Much of that habitat has now been designated as critical habitat, ensuring these protections will be maintained.

Read more about the lawsuit that triggered the critical habitat designation.

Read the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed critical habitat designation.

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Sixty per cent of local market timber is illegal


Accra, Dec. 2, GNA- Over 60 per cent of all timber products available on the domestic market is illegal, causing a lot of loss of revenue to the State, Mr David Kpelle of the Forestry Commission (FC)said in Accra on Thursday.

He said these timber products were mainly brought to the market by chain-saw operators who do not follow laid-down procedures nor paid any form of royalties.

Mr Kpelle disclosed this at a stakeholder’s workshop on Environmental Sustainability and Policy for Cocoa Production attended by stakeholders in the cocoa industry.

He said though the annual allowable cut of timber was two million cubic metres presently, four million cubic metres were being cut creating over harvesting.

Mr Kpelle indicated that the situation needed to be curtailed since it could affect “our export market should it be detected at the international level in the face of finding global solution to deforestation”.

He said though the FC had put up measures like setting up a task force to monitor and arrest culprits, they could not perform effectively since they were understaffed.

The situation, Mr Kpelle said was more compounded since the task force was only mandated to arrest offenders only on the road (transit point) but not on the market where they sell the timber.

He therefore urged the authorities to join forces to arrest the situation.

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