On February 4, 2022, Colombia’s Military and Police forces began the 14th iteration of the Artemis Campaign (Campaña Artemisa) in the Chiribiquete National Natural Park, seeking to end deforestation, restore the tropical rainforest, and prosecute those who destroy the Amazon forest, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
Artemis is a joint effort between the Ministry of Defense; the Ministry of the Environment; the Office of the Attorney General; National Natural Parks of Colombia; the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies; and the Public Force.
The Ministry of Defense said that it would strictly enforce environmental crime laws and will reforest 1,200 hectares of land. In the last five years, some 600,000 hectares of forest were cleared in the Colombian Amazon, the environmental journalism site Mongabay said.
Intentional fires are among the methods that “deforestation mafias” use most to grab land in national parks and protected areas, the Colombian magazine Semana said.
“The goal is to take action in 11 special positions where we’ve identified deforestation activities by these gangs. We are going to make arrests and carry out several raids […],” Minister of Defense Diego Molano said.
Most wanted deforesters
According to the U.S. nongovernmental organization Crisis Group, coca crops, gold mining, and illegal cattle ranching are armed groups’ main sources of income. These activities fuel conflict and worsen environmental degradation.
To strengthen this fight, on February 4, the Colombian government released the names of the 17 most wanted criminals for environmental crimes and deforestation; four of them surrendered, and authorities are after the remaining 13, the Ministry of the Environment said in a statement.
“That means that they recognize they are committing a crime against the natural heritage of Colombians,” Minister of the Environment Carlos Eduardo Correa said on February 9. “They either turn themselves in, or they will be captured.”
In the first 13 iterations of the Artemis Campaign, which began in 2019, Colombia recovered 21,699 hectares of degraded forest, and captured 582 people for environmental crimes, the Ministry of Defense said.
New phase of Artemis
The Colombian government announced on January 23 that it will extend the scope of the Artemis Campaign to protecting national waters. The Colombian Navy will join the campaign’s new phase “to face many of the threats to these coral reefs, such as illegal trawling, or indiscriminate fishing that affect many of the species,” President Iván Duque said as he announced the extension of the military operation.
The Colombian government is proposing to declare 30 percent of its territory as protected areas in 2022, including oceans, which means expanding marine protected areas by more than 160,000 square kilometers, the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported.
Colombia hopes to reach its goal of zero deforestation by 2030, the Ministry of the Environment said.