From Thu Jun 8 10:49:29 2000
Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2000 20:10:06 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: BIOD: Logging Threatens Gabon's Fragile Forest Cover
Article: 97811
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Logging Threatens Gabon's Fragile Forest Cover

Forest Networking a Project of, Inc., 6 June 2000

Global Forest Watch has unveiled the first independent assessment of logging in Gabon's rainforests. Despite the fact that 75% of its forests have been logged, or are slated to be, Gabon maintains some of the largest remaining rainforests in West Africa. Not surprisingly, most logging is by foreign multi-nationals. It's a damn shame the World's governments haven't mobilized to counter the ecological tragedy playing itself out in essentially all the World's remaining rainforest ecosystems. This failure will haunt humanity for our remaining days. The full report can be found at GFW's web site at:

Title: Logging lures Gabon from fragile forest cover
Source: Copyright 2000, Environmental News Network
Status: Copyright 2000, contact source for permission to reprint
Date: May 31, 2000

Byline: Margot Higgins

The first independent assessment of logging in the forests of Gabon was recently completed.

Due to its low population density, Gabon is one of few countries in equatorial Africa that retains its original forest. But this postcard picture could soon change, according to a report from the World Resources Institute.

A First Look at Logging in Gabon is the first systematic, public and independent assessment of the logging industry in Gabon.

Past studies on Gabon's logging industry were carried out by private consultant groups hired by the industry or the government, said Jean-Gael Collomb, lead author of the report. An independent assessment by local non-governmental organizations assisted by the Global Forest Watch project is an important tool to promote transparency and accountability in forest management.

The report focuses on several sets of indicators that measure the sustainability of Gabon's logging industry. They include groups logging Gabon's forests, principal logging sites and logging regulations enforced or ignored by the government of the country.

Robust royalties from oil production have sheltered Gabon's forests from the pressure of agricultural interests. But as oil revenue declines, interest in the county's forest resources increases.

In 1957, less than 10 percent of Gabon's forests was allocated for logging concessions. But in the past decade, wood production has nearly doubled, according to the report. Today, more than 75 percent of Gabon's forests have been logged or are slated for logging.

Most of the rapid increase in logging development has taken place over the past five years, said Collomb. As is the case elsewhere in Africa, foreign interests exert significant control over the logging sector in Gabon.

According to the report, almost one-third of the total area under timber concessions is allocated to five companies partially or wholly owned by interests outside the country.

Outside influence can have positive and negative implications for Gabon, Collomb explained. The Gabonese people are losing a lot of their forest cover, but they are not gaining a lot of capital, he said.

While foreign companies often have more money to ensure sustainable logging practices, many of them have poor track records.

Gabon's forestry industry is vulnerable to market swings, the report also notes. More than 90 percent of the country's logging production is exported, mostly to Asia. A single timber species, okoum�, accounts for 73 percent of Gabon's exports.

Laws designed to protect forests in Gabon are poorly enforced. In 1997, only 100 government agents were available to monitor and inspect 332 logging concessions covering 86,000 square kilometers, according to the report. Only five of 200 logging companies have forest management plans.

Many new logging concessions are slated for protected areas, Collomb noted. Overall there is no real safety measure to ensure that there is a decrease in future logging, he said. The government's main focus is on using logging resources.

With extensive timberland and low population density—four people per square kilometer; a total population of 1.3 million (1993)—Gabon has a unique opportunity to preserve its forest, the report concludes. In neighboring countries such as Cameroon, population pressures and economic interests are felling forests for agricultural land.

There is enough forest in Gabon to practice conservation and develop logging activities if the laws are properly enforced, Collomb said. That is a big 'if,' because so far the laws have not been enforced.