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U.S. House condemns illegal logging, decimation of wildlife in Madagascar

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

unique biodiversity;

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

security; and

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.


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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.


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