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4 November 2009

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House resolution condemns plunder of natural resources in Madagascar

A House of Representatives resolution introduced by Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) condemns the illegal plundering of natural resources in Madagascar, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The resolution condemns the political turmoil that eventually led to the forced resignation of former president Marc Ravalomanana and the subsequent logging of valuable hardwoods from the country's rainforest parks. The resolution cited "ongoing intimidation of natural community management structures, intensified smuggling of endemic and protected species, illegal mining and slash and burn agriculture, and the degradation of the resource base upon which local communities depend," according to WCS.

"Illegal logging not only does irreparable harm to the environment, but it destroys livelihoods," said Congressman Blumenauer in a statement.

Madagascar's forests have been heavily pillaged in the aftermath of island nation's political crisis. Officials in the new government, as well as criminal gangs, have been linked to the illegal logging and smuggling of rosewood, ebonies, and other precious timber. Earlier this month the Director of Environment and Forests of the Sava region in Northeastern Madagascar was sacked after he was found to be involved in illicit wood shipments.

"In Oregon and across the United States, at a time when we are working to recover the economy, illegal timber imports undermine legitimate logging operations," said Blumenauer. "While Madagascar's de facto government continues to use its endangered resources to boost its regime, Congress today joined the administration in calling for an immediate end to these practices."

The resolution calls for (1) importing countries to intensify monitoring and inspection processes to ensure they do not contribute to demand for illegally sourced woods from Madagascar; (2) action within Madagascar to stop the illegal activities and bring those responsible to justice; and (3) return of democratic rule to the island.

"The situation in Madagascar is nothing short of tragic - not only for the people and wildlife of Madagascar, but for the entire planet," said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, in a statement. "I applaud Congressman Blumenauer for his continued leadership in the United States Congress on the issue of illegal logging. This resolution will serve as a clear message to the current Malagasy government that the illegal harvesting of Madagascar’s natural resources is unacceptable."

Beyond the plundering of natural resources, the political crisis has dealt a severe blow to Madagascar's $390-million-dollar-per-year tourism industry, much of which is based around ecotourism. Tour guides and rangers are out of work, park gate fees are down, and hotels and restaurants have cut staff. At the same time, donor agencies have pulled funding for conservation and sustainable development projects, exacerbating pressure on protected areas.

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