Every year, the Honduran government loses six to eight million dollars, and the municipalities around 1.6 million dollars, in unpaid taxes resulting from the illegal timber trade. According to Tierram‚rica, of the 86 reports made in the last three years by the independent forest monitoring unit, only 19 did not involve irregularities. The rest document abuse of power, adulterated technical reports, pressuring local groups in order to obtain logging permits, logging in protected areas.
More than three-quarters of Honduras is mountainous, and forests stretch over 50 percent of the territory. Government reports indicate that forests are the most valuable natural resource. They could generate more than 25 percent of GDP, estimated at 12.7 billion dollars following the crisis triggered by the Jun. 28, 2009 coup d'‚tat that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya. However, currently the forest sector contributes just five percent of GDP. The decline of the country's forests has four main causes: changes in land use, consumption of firewood, fires and illegal logging, according to a report by the independent forest monitoring unit of the ombudsman's office.
Although there is little data on the illegal trade in timber, it is estimated that 80 to 100 "rastras" or timber containers pulled by trucks circulate in Honduras every day. The concentration of such activity is heaviest in the northeastern department (province) of Olancho, one of the most deforested areas in Honduras.
According to ombudsman Ram__n Custodio, illegal logging "enriches the corrupt individual while impoverishing the community," in addition to fomenting destruction of forests, which has repercussions beyond the forestry sector, said the ombudsman". There is a sort of "forestry whitewashing" in which legal and illegal activities are "the two extremes of a spectrum in which the lumber is legalized using different mechanisms."
"The government must urgently take responsibility for its failure to study and inventory the nation's natural resources. As long as the prevailing attitude is that research funds are an expense rather than an investment, we will continue groping our way blindly with respect to the environment, without stopping to consider that we are losing the country's natural wealth - says the forestry expert Rigoberto Sandoval - Illegal logging means genetic and environmental losses for some species, as well as the loss of biodiversity resulting from the shrinking forest cover".
The illegal timber traffickers often fail to comply with technical standards for logging and measures intended to preserve the soil, and usually fell more timber than authorized for legal extraction. Many companies also use illicit documents to misappropriate land titles, in conspiracy with forest cooperatives and public officials, to take timber from areas beyond their original permits, committing crimes like falsification. The independent forest monitoring unit report states that illegal logging leads to greater environmental vulnerability and social conflicts.
The regions where most of these crimes are committed are Olancho, the Atlantic region, the northern department of Yoro, the central departments of Francisco Moraz—n and Comayagua, and, to a lesser extent, El Paraso and the rest of the southern region of Honduras. In Olancho, the city of Juticalpa and the Ro Pl—tano Biosphere Reserve are the areas with the highest levels of forest corruption.