Liberia has a long and troubled history of old-growth logging funding war, which has left at least 60% of the country's forests severely degraded. Years of indiscriminate plunder of its intact ancient primary rainforest ecosystems have severely reduced the nations's development potential. Liberia houses most of the Upper Guinean Rainforest, classified as a biodiversity hotspot, and one of the most critically fragmented forest regions on the planet, with only about 10% of the original intact ecosystem remaining. These rainforests are home to many endemic species, such as the last remaining viable population of the Pygmy hippopotamus, and is also the last stronghold of forest elephants in West Africa. This promising country – which is just getting back on its feet – must be encouraged to abandon inherently corrupt industrial scale rainforest clearance for log export, before the nation's rainforests, ecological sustainability and future development potential are gone forever.
A UN ban on Liberian logging was lifted in 2006, and after $30 million dollars in international subsidies, the country resumed is commercial logging operations in 2010 under new forestry regulations that drew praise from the international community. This mistaken belief that industrial primary ecocide can be done "sustainably" has led to some 66 Private Use Permits (PUPS) being issued covering 26,000 km2, though the people who own and live in concession areas have not granted their informed consent, and some documents were forged. PUPS were designed to allow private land owners to cut trees on their property, and were designed for non-commercial purposes, not major international logging firms. PUPs are being used by companies to avoid Liberia’s newly crafted forest laws and regulations, which look good on paper but can't control the insatiable rainforest logging industry.
Through its business partner Atlantic Resources, notorious Malaysian timber mafia company Samling is a major beneficiary of the illegal logging, now controlling 8% of Liberia’s land area through PUPS despite owing millions in back taxes. Samling is using the same old trick of covertly setting up front companies to conceal its business interests, used in Papua New Guinea until 2003 and in Guyana until 2007. Samling has been operating on Penan land in the Malaysian part of Borneo for many years, without the tribe's consent, leading to repeated protest blockades and arrests. Atlantic Resources is owned by a long time business partner of former Liberian President Charles Taylor - who has been convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity – the same individual behind the notorious Oriental Timber Company (OTC) which squandered huge amounts of the country's natural resources. These new reports indicate Samling is continuing similar abuses in Liberia to this day.
Though President Sirlea has already ordered an investigation, few are questioning the development model of industrial first time logging of primary rainforests. Foreign companies industrially harvesting primary forests for log exports are inherently corrupt and ecologically unsustainable. NGOs who have issued the report are far more – and rightly – concerned that communities will only get 1% of the short-term profits generated by the rainforest ecocide, but do not seem very concerned that primary rainforests are being destroyed, losing forever ecosystem services and future development potential in the process. It is time for international NGOs and the World Bank to stop promoting "sustainable" industrial forest logging in Liberia, as it only opens the doors for such corruption and theft, and can only lead to further ecosystem decline and inequitable impoverishment.
There is no evidence first time industrial logging of primary forests is ever ecologically sustainable or reduces poverty. It is vitally important for Liberia's local development aspirations, and local and global ecological sustainability, that primary forest logging be banned, as it is false development. Please call upon Liberia's President to pursue development based upon standing rainforests, and reject entirely the resumption of industrial logging. There exists tremendous potential to develop community based small scale eco-forestry that meets local aspirations while maintaining intact old rainforest ecosystems.
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Having devastated the Penan of Malaysia's rainforests (ongoing and with continued protests) -- and those in Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Guyana as well -- Samling timber mafia now turns its eye to Liberia, West Africa
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