Illegal logging refers to the unlawful removal of trees and wood, usually from forests, mangroves, and other protected or managed areas. Illegal loggers can be working for or selling to local businesses or international companies, or can be poor, local laborers looking for extra income or wood to burn for fuel—or they can be both. Whatever the reasons, the results rob the forests of important species; such as mahogany, taken to sell to furniture makers, tourists, and exporters; in the worst cases, such as clear-cutting, illegal logging destroys entire areas of forest habitat. The consequences of illegal logging can be a loss of important species, damage to the ecosystem, and/or contamination and loss of freshwater sources upon which local communities rely, to name just a few of the problems that follow.
Illegal logging also takes a toll on the local economy. Illegally harvested wood at market is often “cheaper” for buyers and thus makes it harder for sustainably harvested wood to sell at a reasonable price. As one example, studies have shown that up to 85 percent of all hardwood logging in Honduras was done illegally. This can create a vicious cycle of harm, where more and more wood is taken from the forest, and the price creates little incentive for purchasers to reduce their reliance on it.
Central America and southern Mexico are home to some of the world’s most marginalized and impoverished people, who rely on the tropical forests for their day-to-day lives. Ecologic works with local communities to help to stop illegal logging through programs like forest guardians, agroforestry (planting food with trees), fuel-efficient stove installations, and alternative livelihoods development. We also help communities develop plans to combat illegal logging, which can include using global positioning software and mapping to document community forests, environmental education campaigns, and strengthening of local laws.