On Wednesday December 7th, 2016, the Forest Department confiscated a total of 31,000 board feet of rosewood in flitch and lumber form in the Benque Viejo area.
The Department proceeded to charge Miguel Angel Estala on January 4th, 2017 at the San Ignacio Magistrate Court with “unlawful possession of forest produce” in accordance with Section 19 of the Forest Act CAP 213. Estala pleaded guilty and was charged the maximum fine of $1000.00, the rosewood material was forfeited to the Government of Belize.
The Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development recognizes that perpetrators face a relatively minor penalty for forest crimes. Therefore, it has embarked on an exercise to revise penalties and fines for forest crimes, and will seek to introduce the necessary amendments to the Forest Act at the next sitting of the House of Representatives.
The Forest Department also conducted an operation in the area known as the Gomez Estate, an extensive area of privately owned forest in the Toledo District, and found approximately 1000 board feet of rosewood along with 2500 board feet of Santa Maria lumber. All the confiscated material is housed at the Forest Department under 24-hour surveillance.
The Department wishes to remind the public once again that a permit is required for the felling of timber in national and private lands. Anyone found cutting a tree without permission or in possession of illegal lumber commits an offence and is liable to prosecution under the law.
The public is encouraged to report any suspicious activity to the Forest Department at 822-1524 to the Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Program Manager or to firstname.lastname@example.org.