valuation of environmental damage in Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve. While the study sheds light on the long term environmental costs of ecological damage, it does not constitute a response to ongoing violations of the law with regards to illegal settlement, land use and logging.
The State Party acknowledges that illegal logging continues to be a concern, and notes that in many cases the individuals involved in illegal logging activities have been identified by the authorities. IUCN has received reports that there is insufficient follow-up on violations of existing laws, including illegal logging, despite recognized enforcement efforts on the ground. IUCN considers that, although the precise details are subject to some debate, the data presented in the 2009 Global Witness report is by and large an accurate presentation of illegal logging practices affecting the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that despite the State Party’s efforts to enforce conservation laws, illegal logging remains a serious threat to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value. Under the umbrella of an agro forestry scheme, twelve local cooperatives are permitted to harvest defined quantities of timber in line with specific management plans. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that this is a plausible and promising approach to introduce controlled logging in the buffer zone while encouraging local stewardship. The State Party report does not specify and discuss the achievements under the agro forestry scheme but is instead limited to tabular overviews of licenses granted to local cooperatives. Furthermore, the State Party report mentions and quantifies a number of confiscations of timber, in part supported by the military, but does not specify the follow-up and implications for the property.
Forest monitoring plots, in particular of big-leaf mahogany, are being set up by ICF (El Instituto Nacional de Conservación y Desarrollo Forestal, Áreas Protegidas y Vida Silvestre), the national institution in charge of forests, wildlife and conservation, and supported by the United States of America (USA) through its Forest Service and United States Aid Agency (USAID). The State Party also reports that an independent monitoring system (Proyecto Monitoreo Forestal Independiente or MFI) covering timber and non-timber forest products, is being introduced. MFI involves a broad number of actors beyond the forestry sector and intends to increase participation and transparency in the illegal logging and trafficking of timber. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that these initiatives could contribute to addressing illegal logging and mitigate its impacts on the values and integrity of the property. However, as these measures are at an early stage of implementation, they are unlikely to yet have led to perceptible reductions in, or mitigation of, illegal logging.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the efforts underway to address illegal logging in Rio Platano Reserve, and note that law enforcement does take place despite logistical difficulties. The establishment and promotion of local cooperatives is widely considered a positive step towards establishing more sustainable forms of managing forests and land. However, they note that the lack of sanctions imposed on individuals involved in conversion of forests into cattle pastures, and illegal logging continues to be a barrier to effectively addressing this issue. They further note that the governmental institutions addressing illegal activities are isolated and receive limited support from other sectors and higher political levels. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the State Party of Honduras take decisive action to discourage illegal activities which continue to occur on a large scale, and are reported to have increased lately.
Complete the cadastral process of all lands surrounding the property, and provide legal titles to the owners of these lands
In the buffer zone of Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve there is a scheme to negotiate and grant forest usufruct contracts to local residents based on a participatory process (usufruct is the legal right to use and derive profit or benefit from land that belongs to another person, as long as the land is not damaged). The lack of clear title to lands has been identified as one of the main challenges in regulating the advance of the agricultural frontier, and investment in
State of conservation of World Heritage properties inscribed on the World Heritage List
WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add, p. 63