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AP investigation shows Peru backsliding on illegal logging

  • In this photo taken in Feb. 20, 2017, a customs agent observes the arrival of trucks with wood from the Peruvian Amazon at the port of Callao, Peru. Inspections to detect criminal timber harvesting operations were scaled back following the halting of 1,770 metric tons at the Port of Houston in October 2015 in a rare blow against illegal logging. Prosecutions of illicit logging in Peru have barely advanced since, while officials who signed falsified logging permits for years remain on the job. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

    In this photo taken in Feb. 20, 2017, a customs agent observes the arrival of trucks with wood from the Peruvian Amazon at the port of Callao, Peru. Inspections to detect criminal timber harvesting operations were scaled back following the halting of 1,770 metric tons at the Port of Houston in October 2015 in a rare blow against illegal logging. Prosecutions of illicit logging in Peru have barely advanced since, while officials who signed falsified logging permits for years remain on the job. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this March 17, 2015 file photo, Ashaninka Indian men, identified by locals as illegal loggers, tie tree trunks together to move them along the Putaya River near the hamlet of Saweto, Peru. Ashaninka activist Edwin Chota, a vocal foe of illegal logging, and three other men were slain nearby in 2014. Prosecutors blame rogue lumberjacks but the lone suspect arrested was released in 2016. The World Bank says some 80 percent of Peru’s timber exports are illegally harvested. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

    FILE - In this March 17, 2015 file photo, Ashaninka Indian men, identified by locals as illegal loggers, tie tree trunks together to move them along the Putaya River near the hamlet of Saweto, Peru. Ashaninka activist Edwin Chota, a vocal foe of illegal logging, and three other men were slain nearby in 2014. Prosecutors blame rogue lumberjacks but the lone suspect arrested was released in 2016. The World Bank says some 80 percent of Peru’s timber exports are illegally harvested. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 photo, nearly 1,770 tons of Peruvian wood, nearly all of it found to have been illegally harvested in the Amazon rainforest, sits under tarps dockside at The Port of Houston. It was denied entry by U.S. Customs in October 2015 and was destroyed more than a year later in a non-fault administrative settlement. At least one importer fell under federal criminal investigation. The lumber is Exhibit A in the fight to preserve tropical forests, a vital buffer against climate change. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

    In this Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 photo, nearly 1,770 tons of Peruvian wood, nearly all of it found to have been illegally harvested in the Amazon rainforest, sits under tarps dockside at The Port of Houston. It was denied entry by U.S. Customs in October 2015 and was destroyed more than a year later in a non-fault administrative settlement. At least one importer fell under federal criminal investigation. The lumber is Exhibit A in the fight to preserve tropical forests, a vital buffer against climate change. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)  (The Associated Press)

When Houston customs agents halted almost 1,800 metric tons of Amazon rainforest wood, it was enough to cover three football fields.

Never before had so much lumber been denied entry at a U.S. port on evidence that it was harvested illegally.

The October 2015 impoundment from a rusty freighter was a rare victory in the battle to preserve tropical forests and a blow against criminal logging in Peru.

But the triumph was short-lived. The chief of Peru's forest inspection service was soon fired and forced by death threats to flee to the U.S.

An Associated Press investigation found that Washington's efforts to get Peru to clean up its notoriously corrupt timber industry were badly undermined, and Peru failed to meet environmental requirements set by a 2006 agreement with the U.S.