By BBN Staff: Belize’s new amendments to the Forest Act replace outdated sections of the forest legislation and impose increased fines and stiffer penalties for forest offenses. The changes are part of the Forest Department’s on-going efforts to strengthen law enforcement capacity to reduce increasing illegal forest activities, deforestation and degradation of our forest resources.
Illegal and unsustainable timber and non-timber extractions undermine Belize’s on-going efforts to curb deforestation and biodiversity loss. In light of this, the new amendments act as deterrents and help to strengthen the department’s legal capacity to tackle illegal logging and other related crimes. The Amendments specifically impose the following changes:
A Second Schedule to the Forest Act prescribes a new penalty formula that is dependent on the species ecological value and scarcity, volume, and market price. In light of this, any person in possession of specific timber species, such as Mahogany, Cedar, Rosewood, Santa Maria, Pine and others listed, may be fined up to three times the amount based on the calculations in the Second Schedule.
Fines for the unlawful possession of any forest produce not included in the Second Schedule of the Forest Act have also increased to a maximum of $10,000 and 12 months imprisonment. (Section 19, Forest Act)
Under Section 19 of the Forest Act, any vehicle, vessel or equipment used in the commission of a forest offense will now be confiscated.
In relation to counterfeit Forest Department stamps, licenses or the altering of stamps or licenses, the maximum fines have increased to a maximum of $5,000. (Section 20, Forest Act)
Any person found committing the offense of damaging forest roads or waterways, now faces a maximum fine of $10,000. Prior to the amendment to this section, the maximum fine was only $500 even though the cost of damages proved to be far greater. (Section 36, Forest Act)
Any person, who obstructs an authorized officer under the Forest Act from carrying out duties, can now face a maximum fine of $2,000, four times the previous penalty fee. (Section 35, Forest Act)
An amnesty period of two weeks (ending 20th February 2017), has been given, during which time anyone in possession of forest produce acquired illegally would have the opportunity to forfeit the material to the Forest Department without fear of being fined or prosecuted. Following the amnesty period, the Department will enforce the forest regulations under the new amended laws.
The Department is in the process of completely revising the forest legislation as part of its wider forest reform effort to strengthen legal framework, improve forest management and increase monitoring and enforcement of forest activities.
For more information regarding the new amendments, please contact the Forest Department at 822-2079 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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