General

Forestry to introduce harsher penalties for Rosewood harvesting

By Marion Ali, Assistant Editor

People who engage in harvesting Rosewood will face harsher penalties shortly, after the Ministry of Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development seeks to ask the House of Representatives to introduce amendments to the Forest Act.

The request for the change follows the latest incident where a stash of illegally cut Rosewood was discovered and seized. The offender was charged and taken to court, but the maximum penalty for the offense under existing laws, is only $1,000.

This is a far cry from what the fines should be, the Ministry feels, and in a press release on Wednesday, informed it would seek for more severe penalties for forest crimes. The Ministry has since begun to revise the penalties and fines for forest offenses.

In the incident reported, personnel from the Forest Department charged Miguel Angel Estala on January 4, with “unlawful possession of forest produce”. Estala pleaded guilty and was fined the maximum penalty of $1000, and the Rosewood was forfeited to the Government.

The fine stemmed from the discovery of the loot on December 7, 2016, when Forestry personnel confiscated 31,000 board feet of Rosewood, already sawed and ready for shipment, in the Benque Viejo area.

A second operation at Gomez Estate in Toledo in the same month yielded about 1,000 board feet of the prized wood, along with 2,500 board feet of Santa Maria lumber.

The Department reminds loggers that they must obtain permits to extract timber from national and private lands. It warns that anyone caught cutting a tree without permission or anyone caught in possession of illegal lumber is in violation of the forestry laws and is liable to prosecution.

The public can also help to stop illegal logging by reporting suspicious activity to the Forest Department at 822-1524 or by emailing: [email protected]

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