Illegal Logging

The United States is one of the biggest importers of mahogany in the world. Mahogany has been extracted from Belize since the first settlers arrived in the 1597, but it was not until the 1920s that mahogany was extracted from the Chiquibul due to the construction of roads.1 Railroad tracts were built in the Chiquibul, making it easier to transport the logs and creating another incentive to continue logging.1 Between 1922 and 1940, mahogany and cedar comprised 80% of Belize’s exports, but by 2004, they dropped to 14%.1 The overharvest of mahogany has deforested parts of the Chiquibul and encouraged encroachment into the Chiquibul by providing road access to remote areas.

Today, illegal mahogany logging is a great concern on the western border of the Chiquibul. Because mahogany is so valuable, illegal loggers have become more violent and dangerous posing a danger to the park rangers. They have developed a highly tactical system logging in the middle of the night, using scouts before sending out the loggers, using children who cannot be arrested or detained, and using horses to transport the timber into Guatemala. In addition to deforestation and land degradation, logging leads to a loss in important ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and water filtration.

Fig. 4 Sources of stress and how they are affecting communities of timber species. Recreated from “Chiquibul Forest BRIM Framework” by FCD.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 11.19.16 AM FCD Tracks Newsletter August 2010

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 10.50.52 AMFCD Tracks Newsletter April 2011


Economic Loss Due to Illegal Logging

Required Reading:
15A biodiversity research, inventory and monitoring (BRIM) framework for the Chiquibul Forest-Unsustainable legal and/ illegal logging and non-timber forest products harvesting p. 26-28
16Conceptual Ecological Model of the Chiquibul/Maya Mountain Massif, Belize– Timber p. 323
18Illegal Logging in the Chiquibul- Background, Definition, Impacts, Results
19Forest damage caused by selection logging of mahogany in northern Belize
Illegal Logging in Chiquibul Costing Belize at Least $15 million

Bridgewater, S. (2012). A natural history of Belize: inside the Maya forest. Austin: University of Texas Press.