EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Mexican drug cartels have found a new source of income in the mountains of western Chihuahua: illegal logging.

The cartels and their proxies in the past two years have razed at least 37,000 acres of forest in the San Juanito-Bocoyna area, state Attorney General Augusto Peniche said.

Truckloads of logs illegally cut from forests in Western Chihuahua state are seized by Mexican authorities. (photo courtesy State of Chihuahua)

This activity is not only damaging the environment and leaving Tarahumara Indian villages without a source of income, but also leading to bloody clashes between rival cartels, the official said.

“Organized crime has infiltrated (logging) activity, creating great problems, particularly in three towns. Armed conflicts and homicides also have resulted from this activity,” Peniche said in a teleconference Thursday.

An illegal logging camp shut down by authorities in Western Chihuahua, Mexico. (photo courtesy State of Chihuahua)
Up to 70% of the wood used in manufacturing in Mexico comes from illegal logging, according to one study. (photo courtesy State of Chihuahua)

Those three towns are Bocoyna, Guachochi and Madera — the latter a recent flashpoint of conflict between La Linea and Sinaloa cartel proxy Gente Nueva del Jaguar.

Peniche said state officials have conducted audits in licensed mills and also discovered 10 illegal logging camps. Ninety truckloads of wood were seized and 20 people arrested for illegal logging since last year, he said.

State authorities say an Autonomous National University of Mexico study has pointed to Chiapas, Oaxaca and Chihuahua as the three states in Mexico with the highest illegal logging activity. In Chihuahua, the Western Sierra Madre mountain range is rich in conifers and oaks.

The study states that up to 70% of wood used in Mexico for manufacturing comes from illegal logging.

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