Monarch Watch Blog

Crackdown on Illegal Logging in Mexico

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008 at 9:19 am by Monarch Watch
Filed under Mexico | No Comments »

Nibble, nibble, nibble…

Each year illegal logging nibbles away at the forests in the Monarch Biosphere Reserve. These activities originate with local residents in some communities and with outside businesses that hire and organize crews to invade forest plots, often at night, to cut down and remove large numbers of trees in a short period. The larger illegal operations operate boldly in the daytime defying local authorities. From the outside, it looks like the deforestation continues until it can’t be ignored and then the government steps in and raids sawmills, confiscates a few trucks, and arrests a some of the illegal loggers or “talamontes”. This scenario is followed by promises to protect the forest by the government and protection, especially at Sierra Chincua, in the form of the army and special patrols is evident. But then, somehow, the cycle starts again. Illegal logging picks up and continues until some threshold is reached and the government responds.

Shortly after he took office, the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, promised to eliminate illegal logging and to protect the Monarch Biosphere Reserve. Illegal logging picked up again last summer but this time it didn’t go unnoticed and as reported by the Associated Press and other news services on and after the 6th of December, the government conducted the biggest sweep of illegal logging operations in the history of Mexico in the vicinity of the Monarch Biosphere Reserve.

The newspaper accounts vary but the facts appear to be the following:

  • 19 sawmills and lumber yards were raided.
  • Approximately 6,600 tons of logs and lumber were confiscated. The amount of wood products was said to be equivalent to 600 truckloads and over 1,750 mature trees. Most of the forests in the Reserve have tree densities of at least 300 trees per hectare so this harvest represents approximately 5 hectares.
  • The raids were conducted by 600-700 police and environmental agents.
  • 45-56 loggers (talamontes), mill operators, truck drivers, and others were arrested and charged. The fact that those arrested were actually charged with crimes drew the attention of some commentators in Mexico since charges don’t often follow arrests in these cases.

In the past year, the Mexican government has shut down 59 illegal sawmills and charged 193 people with crimes associated with illegal logging. These raids and the government’s attempts to shut down illegal logging throughout the country are promising. A reduction in the rate of deforestation is badly needed. In 2005-2006, over 574 hectares of the 56,260 hectare reserve were deforested*. Losses at this level (10%) over such a short interval are unsustainable. Hopefully, the rate of loss of forests in the Reserve will slow sufficiently so that natural replacement and reforestation efforts will be able to keep pace with these losses.

*See WWF-MX report (300K PDF, in spanish): “PÉRDIDA Y DETERIORO DE LOS BOSQUES EN LA RESERVA DE LA BIOSFERA MARIPOSA MONARCA 2005-2006


Janis Lentz standing along side the base of a recently cut old-growth oyamel at San Andres (2004).
Photo by Chip Taylor.


Stump of an old-growth oyamel at San Andres (2004). The widest diameter of this tree was at least 56 inches.
Photo by Chip Taylor.


Oyamel logs cut to length and placed so they could be easily rolled downhill to an awaiting truck.
Photo by Chip Taylor.

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