- August 1 - The timber industry has announced it's suing the U.S. government
to force the release of 16 shipments of Brazilian mahogany that Greenpeace, the
Brazilian government and the U.S. Department of Interior have deemed either illegal
or under investigation. The plaintiffs claim that they had all of the necessary
paper work, including valid export permits issued by the Brazilian government.
Greenpeace, however, uncovered evidence that these permits' validity is highly
questionable and that the mahogany itself was illegally extracted following a
ban on all mahogany exports put in place by Brazil in October of 2001.
"The timber industry is abusing the legal system for illegal gains,"
said Scott Paul, Greenpeace Forest Campaign Coordinator. "President Bush
announced that the U.S. was going to become a leader in combating illegal logging
and this lawsuit undermines any efforts to fight the outbreak of illegal logging
that is destroying ancient forests around the world."
Before issuing a permit for timber export, the Convention that Oversees Trade
in Endangered Species (CITES), which oversees endangered mahogany, requires each
country's designated agency be satisfied that the product was legally harvested.
In the case of these shipments, the designated agency was Brazil's environmental
agency IBAMA. IBAMA had shutdown the country's mahogany trade in October, 2001
citing widespread corruption and illegalities. According to CITES, only IBAMA,
not the courts or even the president of the country has the authority to issue
As reported in the news earlier this year, Greenpeace uncovered evidence that
mahogany shipments were continuing into the United States following Brazil's ban.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife sought clarification from Brazil about the legal status
of the shipments mentioned in this lawsuit. So far the Brazilian government has
requested that the United States continue to hold the mahogany and Greenpeace
called for its return to Brazil to aid the government's efforts to track and combat
"If these plaintiffs continue with this ill-advised lawsuit, it will just
continue to shake people's confidence in the ethics of U.S. corporations,"
continued Paul. "These companies have an opportunity to join President Bush's
initiative to combat illegal logging and to be part of the solution - instead
of fueling the problem."