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GPS Helps Greenpeace Find Illegal Loggers

Posted: October 21st, 2014, by Zack Winter

Using GPS tracking, aerial photography and satellite imaging for the first time to gather evidence, Greenpeace Brazil was able to hand over information to law enforcement authorities about illegal logging in Brazil.

The undercover operation led by lawyer Gianfrancesco Genoso  began two months ago as activists attempted to find out how illegal timber companies were operating. Making direct contact with loggers suspected of illegal activity, activists placed small magnetic GPS devices directly onto their vehicles.

When asked about the danger of such tactics, an unidentified member of the activist team said, “Everyone is afraid of something sometimes. But, even with fear, we wanted to expose that official papers are worth nothing in proving the legality of Amazon timber.” Brazil ranks first in the murder of activists, according to a report published in April of this year.

The Greenpeace team discovered a 200-mile course that led deep into the Brazilian state of Pará. The course wound through land belonging to the state. Once the physical trail was discovered the team got busy on the paperwork trail. No permits had been issued from this region in Pará.

The sawmills in Santarém received late night shipments of logs from timber companies that may have been guilty of a practice called laundering. Attaching permits from areas that have been approved for logging to timber from restricted areas is called laundering.

In a statement, the Pará state Environment department said, “Greenpeace’s research into timber companies transporting and receiving illegal timber demonstrates the necessity to improve the control and monitoring mechanisms to prevent illegal logging.”

Pará leads Brazil in its export of timber. According to Imazon, a non-profit research institution, as much as three quarters of the timber may be illegally felled.