Colombia Launches Military Campaign Against Deforestation

Deforestation progresses at an alarming rate, causing the State to declare it a national security concern. Its Armed Forces are combating the problem.
Yolima Dussán / Diálogo | 20 September 2019

Transnational Threats

The Colombian Army’s Military Engineers Command conducts reforestation projects to grow native plant crops at Chiribiquete National Park. (Photo: Colombian Army Military Engineers Command)

In late April 2019, the Colombian Army, Air Force, Navy, and Police launched Operation Artemisa with 17,000 elements working to neutralize indiscriminate logging from the planting of illicit crops, as well as wildlife trafficking and illegal mining.

“Protecting biodiversity is now a main national concern. Water resources, biodiversity, and the environment are strategic objectives,” said Colombian President Iván Duque at the launch of the military campaign. “Thanks to unmanned aerial vehicles, [we conduct] intelligence exercises that calculate the impact of actions onsite.”

Colombian Army Colonel Jorge Armando Rodríguez Malaver, head of the Military Engineers Command department, told Diálogo about the results of the two first phases of the operation.

Criminal groups start fires at Tinigua Natural National Park to capture species that will be sold on the black market. (Photo: Colombian Army Military Engineers Command)

“In two months, Artemisa succeeded in recovering 1139 acres and three illegal routes. Authorities also captured 20 people, rescued 10 minors, and neutralized weapons and equipment for coca production and structures used in illegal mining,” said Col. Rodríguez.

Preserving protected areas is Operation Artemisa's main objective. The operation started at Chiribiquete National Park in Caquetá and Guaviare departments, the country’s largest rainforest covering nearly 10.5 million acres, which Organized Armed Groups (OAG) exploit for its abundant wildlife and to cultivate illicit crops. Another area where authorities took action was La Macarena in Meta department, where La Macarena, Picachos, and Tinigua parks are located.

“Deforestation in Colombia reaches 495,000 acres each year, a figure that has been increasing since 2016,” the Colombia Institute for Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies told the press. “From 1996 to 2018 the country lost more than 9 million acres of forest.”

The national goal is to connect communities to reforestation programs, so that forest conservation can be profitable, and so that communities are the first to take action to counter illicit logging. “The increasing wildlife trafficking allows OAGs to create profits with illegal logging and forest fires to capture animal species that are highly valued on the black market, especially at the international level; then, they commercialize the soil to grow illicit crops,” Col. Rodríguez concluded.

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