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HomeTopicsEnvironment and WildlifeCriminals Target Costa Rica's Valuable Timber, Fueling Deforestation Crisis

Criminals Target Costa Rica’s Valuable Timber, Fueling Deforestation Crisis

Costa Rican authorities issued a warning about the serious threat the country’s forests are facing. Alejandro Alpízar, the Environmental Prosecutor, has highlighted the alarming activities of criminal groups who are engaging in illegal timber exploitation and logging to clear land for commercial purposes.

“We can already find these criminal organizations engaging in this type of activity because they face very low risk in terms of detection and prosecution. Most environmental penalties in this country do not exceed three years,” Alpízar stated.

The lucrative nature of these illegal activities, combined with Costa Rica’s relatively mild environmental laws, creates an attractive opportunity for criminals. Alpízar emphasized the urgent need for a comprehensive revision of the country’s environmental legislation to address this issue effectively.

“Costa Rica is already lagging behind. It needs a revision of its environmental legislation, as it is undeniable that environmental assets are now a major target for criminal organizations,” he added.

Alpízar advocates for a solid legal framework mandating that individuals responsible for environmental crimes must restore the damaged environment. This reform is crucial as the forests continue to suffer the consequences of illegal logging, which poses numerous risks to the ecosystem.

The prosecutor noted that criminals primarily target valuable timber such as cocobolo and yellow almond, which are in high demand in Asian markets. The situation is particularly dire in several regions. In the Caribbean, forests are being chopped down to clear the way for tourist accommodation. Meanwhile, in the Northern Zone and Guanacaste, they face the expansion of agricultural land. The Los Santos region has seen an increase in deforestation for coffee planting, exacerbated by climate change.

By 2023, there were 2,355 reported cases of environmental crimes, with 574 involving illegal logging. The Environmental Prosecutor’s Office suggests that the actual number of cases may be higher, as many incidents go unreported. Additionally, a growing fear among witnesses to testify in court complicates efforts to address these crimes.

Authorities are deeply concerned about the potential environmental damage, the loss of tourism, and the broader implications for Costa Rica’s image. They urge the public to report any environmental crimes to help combat this growing threat.

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