Illegal logging in Mato Grosso was responsible for 37% of the forest area logged in the Brazilian state between 2018 and 2019.

This is according to a study by the Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) and supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Map of legal and illegal logging in Mato Grosso.
Map of legal and illegal logging areas in Mato Grosso between August 2017 and July 2019. Blue = legal, and red = illegal logging. Source: ICV

Illegal logging in Mato Grosso

  • Most of the illegal logging in Mato Grosso occurred within the following ten municipalities (71%): Colniza, Marcelândia, Aripuanã, Juína, Juara, Nova Maringá, Itanhangá, União do Sul, Feliz Natal, and Nova Ubiratã.
  • Sixty-nine percent of the forest area illegally logged occurred on private properties registered with the environmental agency of Mato Grosso (SEMA-MT). Followed by 15% on lands without title, and 10% on indigenous lands.
  • Of the illegal logging that occurred on private property registered with SEMA, 16% had forest harvest authorizations. (ie. Logging occurred outside of boundaries, or after permits expired.)
  • Inconsistencies were identified in 22% of the forest harvest permits.
  • The area of illegal logging in indigenous lands more than doubled (125%) from the prior study period (2015-2017). It increased ten percent in conservation units.
Illegal logging areas are 2/3 smaller than legal timber harvests. 117 logs seized at illegal logging site in Feliz Natal on January 25, 2021. Photo: Policia Militar – Mato Grosso

Study methodology

To arrive at these results, the ICV used satellite images to map changes in forest canopy resulting from logging. It then checked the legality of these logging areas by comparing them to the forest harvest permits issued by the state. (The Autex and AEF issued by SEMA-MT.)

Recommendations by the ICV

Recommendations made by the ICV include:

  • real-time monitoring of logging using satellite imaging;
  • enforcement of the laws prohibiting illegal logging since most is occurring on private, registered properties;
  • increasing inspections at sawmills; and,
  • detecting fraud within the systems used to monitor the transport and transfer of wood products.
The area of illegal logging in indigenous lands in Mato Grosso more than doubled (125%). Four arrested for illegal logging in indigenous area in Brasnorte. Photo: Policia Militar – Mato Grosso

A persistent problem

While the area of forest logged illegally in Mato Grosso has trended down over the last decade, it has done so only slightly.

Line graph of legal and illegal logging in Mato Grosso.
This graph shows changes in the area of illegal logging (red) versus legal logging between 2009 and 2019. Source: ICV

In 2010, illegal logging accounted for 44% of the total area logged. Today it stands at 37%.

The report’s recommendations to reduce illegal logging in Mato Grosso are already in place to some extent. The proposed solution seems to be a “more of the same” approach.

245m3 of illegally transported logs seized in Feliz Natal on March 3, 2021. Photo: SEMA Mato Grosso

But how effective can more monitoring and enforcement be in Mato Grosso? Is it time to review the policies and institutional processes influencing the decisions of forest landowners?

Is it time to review the policies and institutional processes influencing the decisions of forest landowners?

While this data helps understand the bigger picture of the problem of illegal logging in Mato Grosso, for buyers of wood products, understanding the risk of illegal wood entering supply chains in the state requires a more nuanced process. The municipalities with the highest area of illegal logging, also tend to have the highest are of legal logging. And even among properties with forest harvest permits, illegal logging occurs.

See: 5 ways illegal logs enter wood product supply chains

Concerned about legal risks in timber supply chains? Join TimberCheck™ or check the Timber Risk Map. Want to explore the declared origin of a wood product? Start a WoodFlow™. Curious what the forest looks like after the presumed harvest, request access to TimberSat™.