If you haven't been following our social media updates closely, then you might not be aware of the harrowing events that unfolded on September 27th. On that fateful day, a logging company brazenly encroached upon our land, embarking on a destructive spree of deforestation. What transpired over the next three weeks was a grueling battle against these illegal loggers that exposed the inefficiencies within Portugal's legal system when it comes to safeguarding our precious forests. Here's a detailed account of what transpired:
September 27th (Wednesday): It all began when we spotted a bulldozer cutting a road through land belonging to us and the Municipality of Lousã. Nearby, a team of illegal loggers ruthlessly felled our trees. In response, we promptly contacted the local police, who identified the culprits and issued an offense notice for unauthorized road construction within a protected Natura 2000 area, the very land our project stands on.
October 2nd (Monday): To our dismay, we witnessed further tree-cutting in the same area. Frustrated by the lack of action from the authorities, we visited the local police station, expecting a swift response against illegal loggers.
October 3rd (Tuesday): In a united effort with the Municipality of Lousã, we took matters into our own hands by imposing two embargoes on the ongoing illegal logging operation—one initiated by us and the other by the Municipality. Astonishingly, when the local police warned one of the managing partners of the logging company about potential criminal charges for disobedience, he callously retorted, "We commit crimes every day." Despite our protests, as the embargo was brazenly flouted right before our eyes, the local police urged us to exercise "common sense," suggesting that the illegal loggers might merely be organizing the fallen trees. Our outrage persisted, but no arrests were made. That night, we raised the alarm across all our social media platforms.
October 4th (Wednesday): Despite our relentless protests, the logging continued unabated. The local police frustratingly claimed their hands were tied, insisting they needed a court order to take action, even in the face of such flagrant disobedience of the embargoes.
To our astonishment, we discovered that the logging company possessed a Cutting Manifesto issued by ICNF (Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests). This document, which provided a mere description of the cutting area and its location, could be downloaded from an ICNF platform without any requirement to prove land ownership or cutting rights. ICNF considered this manifesto a declaration of legality, and the local police cited it as a reason for their inaction. We were left utterly dumbfounded.
October 5th (Thursday): Undeterred, we took matters into our own hands and captured footage of the illegal loggers ruthlessly felling our trees. Tensions ran high, with veiled threats directed at our camera crew.
October 6th (Friday): Our pleas with the local police to enforce the embargo remained fruitless. Simultaneously, our legal team initiated criminal complaints and legal proceedings to secure a court order to halt the logging. Unfortunately, Portugal's sluggish justice system exacerbated the crisis, as every day the logging persisted, more irreplaceable trees were lost. Our hands were tied as we helplessly watched our land being desecrated by these illegal loggers.
October 10th (Tuesday): In a desperate bid to protect Portugal's forests and ecosystems, we launched a public petition, garnering support for measures such as banning clear-cutting in protected areas, requiring ICNF to verify property ownership before issuing a Cutting Manifesto, and making embargo disobedience a punishable crime. If we could collect 7,500 signatures, our petition would be discussed in the Portuguese Parliament, potentially leading to the enactment of new laws that could prevent such tragedies from recurring.
Remarkably, the petition exceeded our wildest expectations, amassing over 18,000 signatures, and was subsequently delivered to the Presidency of the Portuguese Parliament on October 30th.
October 16th (Monday): A fortuitous storm disrupted the illegal loggers' work for an entire week.
In the days that followed, the logging company received a court summons and finally opted to halt their activities, allowing the legal proceedings to take their course. This breakthrough was only possible due to our relentless efforts to expose the situation across various media outlets and social media platforms, from national newspapers to television broadcasts.
Ultimately, we were left with 7 hectares of our land laid to waste, equivalent to the size of 7 football fields. The environmental devastation is severe, as the steep terrain and onset of the rainy season threaten to wash away topsoil, polluting downstream waterways and making future regeneration efforts arduous, costly, and possibly futile. If we do not act swiftly, the land may become overrun by invasive Acacia trees, a species notorious for its rapid propagation, deep root systems, and resistance to control efforts. These relentless invaders could monopolize the ecosystem, leaving little room for other species to thrive, and pose a heightened fire risk.
In response, we are diligently preparing an emergency reforestation plan for the area, which we will announce in the near future. Our saga serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need to protect our natural heritage and advocate for reforms to prevent such calamities from recurring.
Together, we can turn this heartbreaking story of destruction into a powerful testament to the resilience of nature and the strength of a united community determined to safeguard our forests. Stay tuned for more updates as we embark on our journey towards reforesting Silveira!
PS: Here is a short video a friend made while we were in the thick of it