By exploiting a loophole in Liberian law, international logging companies have gained access to as much as one-quarter of Liberia's landmass, according to a report out today by watchdog group Global Witness. It explains that foreign companies are relying on so-called "Private Use Permits," which were designed for use by private landowners to allow them to cut trees on their own property. These permits are instead being used by major companies and now cover 40% of the country's forests.
Companies holding the permits are not required to log sustainably, and pay little compensation to the government for the right to export the timber. "The Private Use Permits have been considered in the past to assist communities in terms of job creation, in terms of support and benefit, but the truth is, we are finding out also, that it has been abused and it is unacceptable," said the country's information minister. The head of Liberia's Forestry Authority is under investigation, after being suspended by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf over the weekend. (Read more Liberia stories.)