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Three ‘take the rap’ for illegal movement of logs from national park

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Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2021. 9:49 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Further to our story on illegal logging in the Mayflower Bocawina National Park and Sittee Forest Reserve, Stann Creek District, we have learned of the fate of all six involved.

According to our colleagues at Krem News, the Forestry Department said that three of the six “took the rap” despite all being caught red-handed at the scene.

It was decided in conjunction with the Police to proceed with the case against those three only. Alternatively, all six would have pleaded not guilty and the case would have proceeded to trial.

In court, the three men, not named, pleaded guilty and were fined $1,500 each for “unlawful possession of forest produce.”

During an operation in May 2021, rangers came across a major illegal logging operation by a group of men in the Park and the Sittee Forest Reserve. The 40 logs they were preparing to extract were confiscated but were never removed from the periphery of the national park.

After confirming that the logs were being illegally removed this month, rangers and police conducted a joint operation where they caught the 6 persons including a 17-year-old minor red-handed. The Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations (APAMO) reports that all were arrested but only 3 of them were charged. Apparently released were the Police officer, the minor and the truck driver who is the ex Forest Department employee.

APAMO questioned why that is the case since all six men were seen loading three mahogany logs onto a trailer. They add that at no point did the Police Department nor the Forest Department contact them with a progress report on the charges. They underscore that illegal logging and hunting remain major threats to maintaining the integrity of our natural resources. The release states “We can only address this problem if there is commitment throughout the process from field surveillance to apprehension and proper prosecution.”

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