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Nicaragua Targets Illegal Loggers with 'Eco-Battalion'

Nicaragua has deployed an "eco-battalion" of some 580 soldiers charged with protecting the country's endangered natural resources.

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In January 2012, the battalion undertook its first mission, Operation Green Gold, against illegal loggers. So far, the unit has secured 3,165 cubic meters of illegally harvested timber, reports the BBC.

The soldiers in the new eco-battalion are armed with shovels as well as with guns, in order to plant trees. The country's forested area has fallen from 63 percent to 40 percent of its land mass since 1983, according to the report, in large part due to illegal logging.

Nicaragua's constitution says that threats to the natural resources can be considered as threats to national security, giving this battalion legal recourse to target "eco-traffickers" militarily.

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Colombia's current government has also declared a "crusade" against illegal logging, which its government says funds organized crime.

However, while the industry has clear ties to organized crime in Colombia and Nicaragua, much of it is the work of subsistence loggers. This could mean that a militarized approach alone will not solve the problem of deforestation.

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