A year and a half since the murders of conservationist Edwin Chota and three other indigenous leaders, rampant illegal logging continues on the Tamaya River in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. “The wood is illegal,” says an anonymous logger with a grin, pointing to a giant raft of 1000 logs floating in a lagoon near the Asháninka community of Cametsa Kipatsi. “No, we don’t have a management plan or permits, but we pay (a bribe) to pass the post downstream. When the rains come we will bring another 2000 logs that we already cut in the forest.”
The man is from the city of Pucallpa, a day’s trip downstream by boat, and he has come with his wife and two small children to spend a month in the forest cutting and then transporting timber. He is part of one of dozens of logging outfits operating in the Tamaya watershed, a lawless mosaic of indigenous lands and forestry concessions. While some concessions have legal permits to log, there is zero compliance with, or enforcement of, management plans which are mandated by law to ensure sustainability. In fact, most of the logging occurs outside of the legal concessions within the traditional lands of the Asháninka people who call the Tamaya home. The illegal wood is then laundered with permits for concessions located elsewhere.
UAC and its sister organization, ProPurús, are helping the Asháninka secure legal title to their lands, the first step to being able to protect their lands and the resources they depend on. In the meantime, we are developing four community “vigilance committees” to equip and train local men and women to document illegal activities and to work with government officials to remove the loggers and enforce the law.