Illegal Rosewood Logging Continues

Planting Empowerment employee demonstrating cocobolo heartwood from a tree in PanamaPlanting Empowerment employee demonstrating cocobolo heartwood from a tree in Panama

Earlier this year, we wrote about the tragic death of an Indigenous leader who was killed trying to stop illegal cocobolo (rosewood) harvesting in Panama. Rosewood is one of the world’s most sought-after tropical hardwoods, and loggers have been encroaching on indigenous lands to access the dwindling stocks.

Unfortunately, the illegal harvesting of rosewood is not slowing down, but actually increasing throughout the world according to a report issued by the non-profit organization Environmental Investigation Agency.

Their report was covered by stories both in the New York Times and the Huffington Post. While there is little logging happening in Panama at the moment because it is the rainy season, logging will resume around February when the roads start to dry out. Will the Panamanian government effectively deal with illegal cocobolo harvesting in 2013? Doubtful after the Ministry of Environment’s budget was cut by 25% year-over-year.

The illegal harvesting of cocobolo in Panama hasn’t reached the point of the loggers battling authorities with high powered weapons, but they’ve definitely robbed trees and even dug dug up the roots of cocobolo trees. The easily accessed trees have already been poached, but there are still stocks remaining in primary forest.

Planting Empowerment is trying to do our small part by producing rosewood in our sustainable forestry projects. Hopefully our sustainably produced supply will eventually ease some of the pressure on those remaining trees left in the primary forest.