The U.S. House of Representatives passed a Resolution today that condemns the unchecked illegal logging and decimation of Madagascar’s endemic species, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), author of the resolution, said in a statement published on his Web site.
“The House is sending a firm signal that the devastating and illegal destruction of Madagascar’s natural resources will not be tolerated,” Blumenauer said. “Illegal logging not only does irreparable harm to the environment, but it destroys livelihoods.
“In Oregon and across the United States, at a time when we are working to recover the economy, illegal timber imports undermine legitimate logging operations.
“While Madagascar’s de facto government continues to use its endangered resources to boost its regime, Congress today joined the administration in calling for an immediate end to these practices.”
The Resolution responds to growing anxiety in the international conservation community that the continued plundering of Madagascar’s few protected forests, for valuable rosewood and other timber, and with it the destruction of habitat vital for the survival of lemurs and numerous other rare species, has inflicted irreparable damage on the African island country’s environment.
Satellite image courtesy NASA
Much of the California-size island has been eroded because of deforestation for farming. Most of the country’s twenty million people are poor. Conservation projects such as national parks that would showcase Madagascar’s abundance of endemic species were supposed to provide drawcards for tourists and researchers, creating income and work to kick-start local economies. But much of that is at risk because of recent political instability and the destruction of the forests.
There is also concern that what’s been happening in Madagascar exacerbates the problem of worldwide illegal logging, which costs countries U.S.$10 billion-15 billion each year in lost revenues for legitimate lumber industries.
“Madagascar is home to almost 150,000 species of flora and fauna. The illegal extraction of these resources threatens biodiversity as well as legitimate logging operations in the U.S.–up to $460 million lost in export opportunities every year,” Blumenauer said.
“After a coup in March, the new and weakened government of Andry Rajoelina issued sweeping decrees allowing the harvest and export of wood from protected forests and World Heritage Sites. The Obama administration has condemned the de facto government, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Conservation International have denounced the wholesale exploitation of some of the world’s most diverse forests and decimation of the local population’s resources and livelihoods. These groups have strongly endorsed Blumenauer’s resolution,” the Congressman’s statement said.
Madagascar is legendary for its unusual animals and plants, such as this chameleon.
NGS photo by Luis Marden
The House voted 409-5 to join the administration and environmental groups in speaking out against the devastation occurring in Madagascar. The Resolution was co-sponsored by 49 members, representing both Democrats and Republicans and including Congressman Donald Payne (D-New Jersey), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health on the Committee for Foreign Affairs, and Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and the Global Environment.
Author of the Legal Timber Protection Act, Blumenauer is a global leader on the issue of illegal logging, his Web site states. The law, signed in May 2008, bans the import of illegally harvested timber and wood products and empowers regulators to keep illegally harvested timber out of the U.S.
Most species of baobab trees are found only in Madagascar.
NGS photo by Luis Marden
Commenting on today’s House resolution, John Calvelli, Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, said, “The situation in Madagascar is nothing short of tragic–not only for the people and wildlife of Madagascar, but for the entire planet. I applaud Congressman Blumenauer for his continued leadership in the United States Congress on the issue of illegal logging. This resolution will serve as a clear message to the current Malagasy government that the illegal harvesting of Madagascar’s natural resources is unacceptable.”
Said Lisa Steel, Deputy Director for Madagascar at WWF, “The loss of Madagascar’s spectacular biodiversity would not only be a global tragedy, but it will further impoverish rural communities whose lives are inextricably tied to the health of their natural environments. While Madagascar is under the rule of a weakened government, it is essential that the international community work to stop the harvest and trade of illegal wood and other protected species, and we appreciate this important first step by Congressman Blumenauer.”
“Congressman Blumenauer continues to play a leadership role in the global problem of illegal logging and the responsibility of consumer nations like the U.S. to support the fight against it, through policies like the Lacey Act and this resolution,” said Alexander von Bismarck, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, which conducted a mission to Madagascar in August 2009 to evaluate the illegal logging situation.
Full text of the Resolution passed by the U.S. House of Representatives today:
H. RES. 839
Mr. BLUMENAUER (for himself, Mr. PAYNE, and Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA) submitted
the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
Condemning the illegal extraction of Madagascar’s natural
Whereas Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island, and
home to up to 150,000 species of unique flora and fauna;
Whereas during the last 20 years, with the support of the
U.S. Government and others, Madagascar has made substantial
progress in stopping environmental degradation,
effectively managing natural resources and preserving its
Whereas these natural resources provide essential benefits
and services for the basic needs of the majority of
Madagascar’s people, three-quarters of whom live in rural
areas and two-thirds of whom live on less than $2 per
Whereas these natural resources also provide economic development
in the tourism sector, drawing an estimated
$390,000,000 per year;
Whereas the Obama Administration has condemned Marc
Ravalomanana’s forced resignation as President of the
Republic of Madagascar, and Andry Rajoelina’s installation
as de facto head of state, as tantamount to a coup
d’etat, undemocratic, and contrary to the rule of law;
Whereas in March 2009, the Obama Administration announced
a suspension of non-humanitarian assistance to
the de facto Andry Rajoelina government;
Whereas, given that 2⁄3 of people live off the natural resources,
decreased assistance for conservation efforts is
having dire humanitarian consequences;
Whereas the African Union and the Southern African Development
Community have suspended Madagascar’s participation
until constitutional order is restored;
Whereas in October 2009, the World Wide Fund (WWF),
Conservation International, and the Wildlife Conservation
Society condemned an interministerial order issued by the
current administration granting sweeping authorization
to export raw and semi-processed hard wood as
”legaliz[ing] the sale of illegally cut and collected wood
onto the market; allow[ing] for the potential embezzlement
of funds in the name of environmental protection
and constitut[ing] a legal incentive for further corruption
in the forestry sector”;
Whereas the following natural resource degradation is occurring
under the de facto government’s watch–
(1) open and organized plundering of precious wood
from natural forests, including World Heritage Sites such
as Marojejy and Masoala National Parks;
(2) intimidation and menace of legitimate local community
management structures, and expropriation of revenue
and benefits from them, causing suffering and impoverishment;
(3) intensified smuggling of endemic and protected
species and species parts and/or products to the national
and international markets;
(4) proliferation of destructive practices such as illegal
mining and slash-and-burn agriculture within protected
areas and environmentally sensitive areas;
(5) degradation of forests, pushing some rosewood
and ebony species to the brink of extinction; and
(6) the degradation of the resource base upon which
rural communities depend representing an immediate and
future threat to local governance, local incomes, and food
Whereas the vast majority of this precious wood is destined
for global export markets: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives–
(1) calls on people of Madagascar to immediately
undertake a democratic, consensual process
to restore constitutional governance, culminating in
free, fair and peaceful elections;
(2) strongly condemns the illegal extraction of
Madagascar’s natural resources and its impact on
biodiversity and livelihoods of rural communities,
including illegal logging, smuggling of wild species,
and illegal mining;
(3) supports action by competent authorities
and the people of Madagascar to stop this illegal
devastation and bring those perpetrating these
crimes to justice;
(4) calls upon importing countries to intensify
their inspection and monitoring processes to ensure
that they do not contribute to the demand for ille10
gally sourced precious woods from Madagascar; and
(5) calls upon consumers of rosewood and
ebony products to check their origin, and boycott
those made of Malagasy wood, until constitutional
order is restored.
The call to boycott Madagascar’s rosewood and ebony explained
Conservation biologist Stuart Pimm writes about his observations of the diversity in Madagascar and how the current pillaging of the country’s natural heritage threatens not only to destroy decades of conservation work, but also ruin the one chance that communities adjacent to national parks have to escape poverty.
Eleven groups that fund and help manage conservation of Madagascar’s remaining wilderness heritage issued a joint statement deploring the invasion by armed looters of national parks and forests, illegal timber extraction, illegal mining, and intensified smuggling of endangered species.
Madagascar’s efforts to curtail illegal logging in the World Heritage Sites of Masoala and Marojejy National Parks and their peripheral zones have not reduced the impact of logging in the immediate term, say governments, international agencies, and conservation groups that support conservation of the country’s natural heritage.
Looters are invading Madagascar’s protected wildlife sanctuaries, harvesting trees and threatening critically endangered lemurs and other species. (March 2009)