40 percent of Liberia’s forests have been granted to logging companies operating outside the country’s strict forestry laws over the past two years, alleges a new investigation by Global Witness, Save My Future Foundation (SAMFU) and Sustainable Development Institute (SDI).
The report, titled Signing their Lives, looks at recently “private use permits”, which the groups say allow logging companies to avoid Liberia’s forest laws and regulations. 66 private use permits covering 26,000 sq km or 23 percent of Liberia have recently been granted.
“Companies holding these permits are not required to log sustainably and pay little in compensation to either the Liberian Government or the people who own the forests for the right to export valuable tropical timber,” said Global Witness in a statement.
“Private Use Permits are great news for logging companies. They are very bad news for pretty much everybody else in Liberia,” added Robert Nyahn of Save My Future Foundation in the statement. “Some communities will receive less than one percent of their timber’s value, while very little revenue will reach state coffers. Since the end of Liberia’s war we have worked with the Government and international partners like the United States, the EU and the World Bank to ensure the Liberian people get sustainable benefits from their forests. These Private Use Permits severely undermine these reform efforts.”
The report notes that some of the concessions have been granted to companies linked Samling, a Malaysian timber giant reviled by environmentalists for its forest management practices in Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo), Cambodia, Guyana, and Papua New Guinea.
Alerted to the issue, the report says the Liberian government has begun to take action. In August, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said a moratorium on private use permits established in February remains place and announced an investigation into permits granted by the Forestry Development Authority. However the Liberian Timber Association, a trade group, has filed complaints with the Liberian Senate and Supreme Court in an attempt to block action against the permits.