1. The Amazon’s Silent Crisis
Based on the scale of harvesting and export, Greenpeace chose to examine the legality of harvesting of the high-value species Ipê in the state of Pará in Brazil. Existing evidence, including previous government enforcement cases, suggested that laundering of timber origin was occurring, abetted by fraudulent documentation.
To investigate this, Greenpeace began by obtaining every Logging Authorisation on record for Pará State. Excluding those that had been suspended or not yet approved helped refine the list of more than 1,300 licenses to just over 1,000. Next, researchers identified those in which the forest inventory included the high-value Ipê species. They then shortlisted any licenses in which a suspiciously large volume of Ipê was recorded, and those in which the volume per hectare appeared excessive when compared to average population densities of the species.
This presented Greenpeace with a longlist of 104 concessions in which there was a reasonable suspicion that the volume of timber was overstated – potentially to enable laundering from other areas. The 104 concessions were further filtered using a range of criteria, including the size covered by the authorisation, the year in which it was validated, those that allegedly contained the most Ipê, and visual information from aerial inspections of selected concessions. Though aerial inspections will be beyond the means of most NGOs, they can be replicated to some degree using satellite analysis.
Greenpeace arrived at a list of 18 Authorisations that they targeted for fieldwork. In 14 out of the 18 cases, they identified sufficient infractions to justify the cancellation of the license.
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