Documentation:Open Case Studies/FRST522/Illegal logging in Honduras

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Illegal Logging in Honduras


Map of Honduras
Area that has been illegally logged.

Honduras is considered as one of the poorest countries in Latin America[1]. There are lots of Indigenous peoples of Maya culture, who have been living in Honduras for a long time[2]. The local communities have suffered hard times for years. In 1838 Honduras became an independent republic, over the next 150 years, the county suffered lots of regional wars[2].

Honduras once had lots of forest resources. Unluckily, a great percentage of forest cover has been lost over the past years[1]. The high rate of deforestation contributes to the 2% of global carbon emissions due to the main driver of illegal logging and illegal trade[3]. According to Merrill, T. (1995), there were 6.8 million hectares of forests in 1964. That forest cover declined to 5 million hectares in 1988. Between the 1980s and early 1990s, about 3.6 percent of its remaining forests have been lost annually [4]. According to the Ministry of Agriculture in 2004, there were 100,000 hectares lost in 2000, almost 1.8% of the forest cover in Honduras. Due to the non-payment of stumpage fees and forest-based revenue by illegal loggers, $18 million is being lost per year[5].The high rates of deforestation have increased vulnerability to natural disasters, like water loss, weather change, and landslides, the biodiversity of Honduras's forest has also exposed to threaten [5]. Currently, there are approximately 4.59 million hectares of forest land in Honduras, equally about 41% of the total land area[6]. The public forest is accounted for 62% of the national forests, which includes 18% protected forests. The rest of the 38% of the national forests includes community forests, tribal forests and private forests[7].

The amount of illegal logging accounts for about 75%-85% of the total in Honduras, countless valuable hardwoods have been over cut and sold at low price, for example, mahogany, which are the main species cut by illegal logging[3] [8]. The main hardwood illegal logging areas were around the Patuca River, Sico-Paulaya Valley, and the southern area of the reserve in Olancho. Olancho is considered as most heavily logged region in Honduras, where threaten directly local communities’ lives and affected to illegal deforestation[5].

The E.U.’s 5 largest Honduran wood products importers

The briberies and different interests between industries and lack of enforcement and failure governance all foster the illegal logging[5]. Additionally, many countries having the huge demand for cheap wood resources also breed the illegal logging in Honduras. The U.S. is the largest consumer in Honduras with importing 38% of local forest products[5]. Between 2003 to 2005, more than 47 million kilograms of wood products were imported. The way consuming the illegal timber indirectly destruct the forests, which should be immediately prevented[5]. What is more, the companies from the European Union also contributed to the destruction of Honduran forests, who are Violating their own rules by continuing to import millions of dollars of Honduran forest products. the U.K. and Germany have been the top countries importing from Honduras, which U.K. imported wood products worth more than $7.3 million[5].

Framing the Problem

Framing the Problem: A Forestry Perspective


The most natural resource conflicts in Honduras are about the land-tenure and property rights. The unclear and uncertain land-tenure and property rights are the main reasons that caused illegal logging.

  1. In Honduras, most of the private landlords lack land titles, who are often challenged by powerful logging companies. The logging companies can acquire logging rights by filing a legal claim and providing witnesses to verify that they own the land[5].
  2. What is more, numerous disputes and conflicts come from the practice that Honduras still recognizes land titles that were issued during colonial times[5]. Loggers and timber companies claim that another government agency has granted them the right to use the land, like the National Agrarian Institute[5]. Sometimes, the companies even forged documents to get the land from the government to get rid of the local resident communities[5].
  3. In addition, the government sells land without agreements from resident communities[5]. The problem is that the government did not consider boundary demarcations and they ignored the presence of current occupants when they sold the land for timber harvesting, which can result in illegal logging[5].
  4. The main political parties receive funds from the timber industries, which drastically fosters the corruption leading to conflicts[5].
The March in Honduras in 2004
  1. In order to create jobs and promote forestry development, the Social Forestry System was built by the COHDEFOR in 1974. However, it has been developed to be a tool for importing and exporting timber, which shows it is impossible for industries to give up tempting interests and to follow the regulations of the COHDEFOR because of the limited forest resources[5].
  2. In 1993, due to the pressure from the local organizations and international environmental groups, the Honduras government had to agree to pass Honduras’ first national environmental law and canceled a contract about timber export with Stone Container Corporation of Chicago[1].
  3. PROTESTS: The negatives impacts of illegal logging have affected the local livelihoods, which has caused that the local communities protest against illegal logging widely in Olancho[5]. The organization called Environmental Movement of Olancho (MAO) leads the national marches every year to protest the impacts of illegal logging in order to defend their rights to protect the environment. However, it hasn’t got the government’ response. Those protests also bring MAO violence, intimidation, and even death. In 1996, there were 3 members killed by assassination. And those assassinations are getting commoner when there is someone investigating illegal logging[5].

Due to the current laws, the 40% Honduras who are living in the forest regions could hardly get any benefits from the forest recourses, while the timber industries local government officials, landowners and timber cutters and sellers can benefit a lot from the illegal logging. That situation has pushed some local communities to join the illegal logging activities and sell the timber at low prices[5].

Framing the Problem: Layering Perspectives

The description above describes illegal logging in Indoensia from the perspective of a forestry student. In this section we welcome contributions from other perspectives. Those interested in contributing to this case study may use the following questions as a guide:

  1. How do scholars and professionals outside of forestry conceptualize the practice of illegal logging in Indonesia?
  2. What are other possible ways of framing this problem?
  3. What special expertise, resources, or theoretical orientations might others bring to help us understand this phenomenon better?


Implications: A Forestry Perspective

Here is a YouTube Video

Illegal logging and the illegal timber trade destroys forests and their unique biodiversity, which breeds corruption and violence and hampers development around the world[5]. The Video lists some negative impacts of illegal logging:


In Honduras, Illegal logging did cause water loss, weather change and landslides[5]. According to the research, the loss of about half the water sources in the west Olancho region was caused by illegal logging and pointed that uncontrolled logging has formed a drier local climate[5]. Illegal logging is the main reason of forest degradation and deforestation, which also causes biodiversity loss and ecosystem services destructed [1]. The loss of biodiversity and the emission of greenhouse gases lead to global climate change.

Illegal logging is threatening the survival of some of the world’s most endangered species[9], including bigleaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) in Honduras. According to the research, there are between 30,000 and 50,000 cubic meters of mahogany extracted every year through the illegal logging in Honduras, which the species is almost on the verge of extinction outside of protected areas [10]. Wildlife in Honduras is no immune,108 out of 5680 higher plant species are threatened, 10 out of 173 mammals are threatened, and 5 out of 232 breeding birds are threatened in Honduras[5].


In Honduras, it is difficult for forest sector to reform due to the timber industries financially support the main political parties[5]. The employees from the political parties play an important role in timber management plans who can give benefits the timber industries in return , which is kind of reciprocity relationship between timber companies and the main political parties[5].

Since 2002, there has been annual national marches organized by he Environmental Movement of Olancho (MAO) to object the impacts of illegal logging and call for a healthy environment. However, it hasn't gain any response from the government and has brought the MAO members lots of harassment from loggers[5]. In mid-2010, Honduras started to show their interest in FLEGT VPA, which was supposed to improve supply chain management and verify legal timber and ensure that investments do not lead to illegal logging[5]. It is a great progress of taking actions to negotiate about FIEGT VPA. Under such license, the trees will be cut legally and be issued to legally verified timber and timber products[11].


Here is a YouTube Video

The loss of government revenue caused by the illegal logging is significant in Honduras[5]. Illegal logging without the right permit could bring government financial difficulties due to the taxes loss and efforts managing the forest. Furthermore, illegal logging leads to unfair competition because of the price of timber in the market and causes negative effects to sustainable forest management in the long run[12], it is hard to realize the future sources of employment and export revenues due to illegal logging is always related to the unsustainable[8].

The video displays how does illegal wood trade affect owners like yourself, where Carmen Borjas claims that with more people are getting to buy illegal logging, it is getting harder for the small-scale owner to afford the cost and compete in the market[13].


There are huge social impacts of illegal logging[12]. Illegal logging is against the law which is always associated with corruption, as well as legitimate rights and interests violated[14]. Ignoring the land and resource use rights of local communities causes conflicts and brings harmful impacts to local people [12]. The conflicts between the timber industries and local communities can be intensified by the high unclear defended land tenure as has been the case in Olancho. In addition, the revenue from illegal logging is also likely to fund conflicts. What is more, the large portion of deforestation, the destruction of forests and uncertain tenure rights will push the indigenous people to migrate to places with high population density[10]. Furthermore, conflicts caused by illegal logging even can bring death as I stated before.

Implications: Layering Perspectives

The description above describes the implications from illegal logging in Honduras from the perspective of a forestry student. In this section, we welcome contributions from other perspectives. Those interested in contributing to this case study may use the following questions as a guide:

  1. How could someone from a different discipline or profession add to the implications above?
  2. What other implications become apparent when illegal logging is viewed through the lens of other disciplines and professions?
  3. What special expertise, resources, or theoretical orientations might others bring to help us better understand the implications associated with illegal logging in Honduras?

Initiatives to Combat Illegal Logging

Here are some regulations, institutes, and laws specifying the procedures to manage the forests in Honduras:

  • The Honduran Corporation for Forestry Development (COHDEFOR)

In 1974, in order to allow communities to manage more forest areas, COHDEFOR created the Social Forestry System [5]. However, it quickly developed into a corrupt monopoly for extracting more timber and exporting largely [4]. In 1985, Honduran government began to decentralize COHDEFOR with encouragement from the United States Agency for International Development (AID)[4]. In 1992, to promote Honduran reforestation, major legislation was passed[4].

  • The 2008 Forest Law

The realization of the destruction of forests in the 1990s facilitated the development of the 2008 Forest Law, which abolished the previous forest authority and built the Institute for Forest Conservation (ICF). The ICF is involved with the protection and management of forests in Honduras. The 2008 Forest Law is important in Honduras due to it is the first law that granted the Honduran civil society the right to participate in the negotiations[11].

  • The Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan

The Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade is the European Union’s Action Plan was set up in 2003, the overall goal is to fight illegal logging through tackling the forest governance problems [11]. Under FLEGT, the European Union has made commitments of contribution to protecting Honduran Forests by stopping importing illegal timbers. Developing voluntary partnerships with key timber-producing countries could be the main process of the European Commission, a license about the legality of timber production is required[5]. In mid-2010, Honduras started expressing an interest in the possibility to negotiate a FLEGT VPA with the EU which was used to reduce illegal logging [11]. Good cooperation with the EU is not only helpful to sustainable development also benefits to the improvement of governance in Honduras. The representative of the Honduras including indigenous people is still negotiating with EU about to begin Voluntary Partnership Agreements negotiations[13].

Many international organizations or institutes aiming to reducing illegal logging also could be helpful to solve the situation in Honduras:

♣ Environmental Investigation Agency(EIA) is an independent campaigning organization committed to preventing environmental crime by halt the illegal trade[11].

♣ Global Witness is an international NGO which has been worked for investigating to prevent natural resource-related conflict and corruption and associated environmental and human rights abuses in Honduras since 2005[11].

♣ Reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+): An international mechanism under negotiation within the UN climate talks and other international forums which aims to reduces forest emission and build carbon stock while providing compensation to governments, communities in developing countries[11].

♣ Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM): In May 2005, IFM was initiated to improve the enforcement by Global Witness and CONADEH, support governance in the forest sector, like, forest law enforcement and fight illegal logging through field investigations[11].

Honduras still has a long way to go to in dealing with illegal logging. But there are strong hopes that the current situation could be improved. In order to combat illegal logging, the government of Honduras could strength the forest management and governance by promoting transparency and law enforcement[15]. For example, developing the information management process that related to information on Honduras' forest and timber resources[10]. Except for punishment of the corruptions, the government should assure that current 41% forest covering should be kept to a sustainable and efficient natural resources use[5] [12]. In that case, it is helpful for protecting the environment as well as preventing natural disasters. Conducting forest research with academic institutions also could be a strategy to improve the situation. Building public awareness and strengthening educations about nature conservation to increase participation in forest protection and conservation is also important[12]. To have a healthy forest governance, the fiscal system of forestry, local communities, and revenues distributed equally and crime prevention all need to be considered[10].

Summary & Recommendations

Recommendations: A Forestry Perspective

To achieve the biodiversity of the forests, improve the performance of local companies and facilitate the development of local economy, the government of Honduras and other foreign importing countries could move forward from the follow aspects:

The government of Honduras:

  • Using the law to better combat forest crime by targeting the full range of forest-related crime, tackling the financial dimension, and making effective use of law enforcement procedures [14], so the first step could be abolishing the COHDEFOR in Honduras, building a new forestry agency to ensure fair participation of different stakeholders, and any act breaking the forest regulations should be severely punished[5]. The government of Honduras should stop to issue the new logging licenses until all the forest-related industries following the regulations; From the perspective of environmental protection, the endangered species should be protected; what is more, forest certifications, like FSC should be applied.
  • At the same time, the government of Honduras should strengthen stakeholder engagement in forest law enforcement by improving domestic cooperation and International cooperation, and mobilizing the Private Sector, NGOs, and the Public [14].

The other foreign timber importing countries including EU:

  • Immediately stop importing and marketing of illegally logged timber products;
  • Support and fund Honduras communities to monitor timber abuse independently;
  • Help the local government to protect the right of civil society groups in Honduras[5].

Recommendations: Layering Perspectives

What recommendations might someone from another discipline or profession make to combat the issue of illegal logging in Honduras? Examples might include:

  • Law
  • Geography
  • Environmental Science
  • Social Justice
  • Economics
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Philosophy


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Butler, R. A. (2006). Honduras: Environmental Profile. Retrieved October 21, 2017, from
  2. 2.0 2.1 Worldatlas. (2017). Honduras. Retrieved October 21, 2017, from
  3. 3.0 3.1 Schmidt, J. (2008). Illegal (B)Logging and Climate Change. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Merrill, T. (1995). Honduras. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 5.23 5.24 5.25 5.26 5.27 5.28 5.29 5.30 5.31 Environmental Investigation Agency. (2005). THE ILLEGAL LOGGING CRISIS IN HONDURAS. Retrieved from https://content.eia
  6. FAO. (2017).Retrieved October 18, 2017, from
  7. European Timber Trade Federation. (2016). Country profile Honduras. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from
  8. 8.0 8.1 Chatham House. (2017). Honduras | Illegal Logging Portal. Retrieved October 21, 2017, from
  9. Mittermeier, R. A., Schwitzer, C., Rylands, A. B., Taylor, L. A., Chiozza, F., Williamson, E. A., & Wallis, J. (2012). Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2012–2014 | Illegal Logging Portal. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from’s-25-most-endangered-primates-2012–2014?it_id=1408&it=document
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Reboredo, F. (2013). Socio-economic, environmental, and governance impacts of illegal logging. Environment Systems and Decisions, 33(2), 295–304.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 Furones, L., & Del Gatto, F. (2011). Perspectives on FLEGT in Honduras. Retrieved from
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 TEFSO. (2015). Impacts of illegal logging. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from
  13. 13.0 13.1 (2016). EU-Honduras Timber Negotiations Strengthen Fight against Illegal Logging. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Goncalves, M. P., Panjer, M., Greenberg, T. S., & Magrath, W. B. (2012). Justice for Forests Improving Criminal Justice Efforts to Combat Illegal Logging.
  15. The World Bank Group. (2006). Combating Illegal Logging and Corruption in the Forestry Sector. Retrieved from

External links

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Jingxin Yu. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.