Environmental damage caused by Mennonite communities is not limited to Quintana Roo, says the federal environmental agency Profepa, citing occurrences in protected areas of Campeche and Coahuila dating back to 2008.
The agency says that in 2009 it filed criminal complaints with the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) against 18 people and issued fines totaling almost 2.8 million pesos (US $156,000) for damage caused to land in Hopelchén, Campeche.
In 2008, Profepa carried out inspections of forest land owned by Mennonites in the municipality to verify if deforestation had occurred lawfully.
It found that much of the land had been cleared without first applying for the relevant authorizations. Consequently, in December 2009, deforestation of a further 759 hectares of land was stopped and on 10 pieces of land, where authorization had been applied for, it was suspended.
The agency shut down five facilities that were being used as sawmills and another two facilities had their licenses revoked. It also seized four tractors and three trucks in the operation and closed 299 kilns that had been used for charcoal production.
In 2013, Profepa discovered that 2,300 hectares of Mennonite-owned land had been illegally cleared for agricultural purposes in Sierra Mojada, Coahuila. The forest land was spread over 23 separate 100-hectare properties and again the relevant authorizations had not been obtained.
Profepa filed claims against the offenders and while all legal avenues for appeal have been exhausted and all rulings have favored the federal agency, the cases have still not been concluded.
However, it is estimated that a fine of 600,000 pesos could be imposed on each offending property, totaling almost 14 million pesos (US $780,000).
Earlier this week it was reported that Profepa had filed claims against three Mennonite communities in Bacalar, Quintana Roo, for illegally clearing forest land.
The farmers said that they didn’t apply for permission because they didn’t have the economic means to pay for the permits.
Mennonite settlement in Mexico dates back to the 1920s when many began arriving from Canada. Today they number about 100,000 and live primarily in Chihuahua and Durango.
Most are engaged in agricultural activities, from cultivating grain to producing cheese.
Source: Milenio (sp)