Controversy over alleged illegal logging in San Marcos village

By on October 3, 2017

Confiscated lumber [San Marcos village, Toledo]

Confiscated lumber
[San Marcos village, Toledo]

San Marcos, Toledo. Tuesday, October 4, 2017. The allegation of illegal logging and the resulting turmoil in the San Marcos Village Council that has pushed the Chairman Juan Caal to submit his resignation continues to gain traction.

The whole brouhaha which culminated with the resignation of the young leader, steams from what can only be described as illegal logging that was conducted in the village.

We say illegal logging because even though the vice chairman of the village purportedly gave permission for two churches to extract timber, under the amended Forest Act, no permits for the extraction of timber can be issued between the period of June 15 to October 15.

As explained by the embattled San Marcos chairman Juan Caal, when he got word of the illegal timber extraction, he did an investigation and subsequently, with the support of the Alcalde and advice from the Forestry Department attempted to confiscate the illegally harvested timber.

That was when the matter deteriorated into into a finger-pointing exercise, and as Caal explained it to us in an interview, disrespecting his office and him personally.

Illegal lumber [San Marcos, Toledo]

Illegal lumber
[San Marcos, Toledo]

The story bears close monitoring because since the recent passage of the amendments to the Forest Act, which prescribed stiffer penalties for violations, four men from the Orange Walk district have been brought up on charges of illegal possession of forest produce, namely 34 unstamped mahogany logs that were illegally harvested on the Old Northern Highway on the Orange Walk district on September 24.

One of the men plead guilty to the charge and the Magistrate handed down a stiff fine of $22,838, which forty seven year old Pablo Valladarez must pay by the end of January, 2018.

If he fails to pay the fine he will be sent to prison for five years.

Having said that then, and hearing the San Marcos chairman confirm that in his opinion and after his own investigation, that illegal logging was conducted by two churches in his village, has he made an official report to the police? And if he has not yet done so, what is the delay in filing that report so that legal action can be taken for the alleged breaking of the law protesting our forests?

In the case of the incidents in Orange Walk, Forestry officials in that northern district have gone on record as saying that the Forestry Department is seriously cracking down on this pervasive problem of illegal logging, which threatens the future of our sustainable logging industry, our environment, the livelihoods of forest-dependent people and our local and national economy.

For context we note that the passage of the 2017 Amendment to the Forest Act provides stricter penalties to match the seriousness of the offences.

Forestry Officials however say that the Department recognizes that laws alone are insufficient.

As a result, the Department continues to step-up efforts by forging stronger ties with other law enforcement officials, building community awareness, and increasing monitoring and law enforcement exercises.

The Forestry Department reminds the public that the logging season is closed from June 15 to October 15 and any logging during this period is strictly prohibited.

If you would like to report illegal logging or other crimes to the Forestry Department, you can call telephone number 822-2079.

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