July 7, 2008

8 Million Trees Planted In Mexico To Combat Illegal Logging

Packs of volunteers, including oil workers and schoolchildren, trekked into fields and forests up and down Mexico on Saturday to plant more than 8 million trees, according to the environment ministry.

"We are repairing just a little of the enormous damage that we are doing" to the environment, President Felipe Calderon said at a tree planting event just north of the capital.

The movement started in response to Mexico's reputation of being a country of rampant illegal logging activity, which destroys 64,000 acres of Mexican forest each year, putting Mexico near the top of a U.N. list of nations losing primary forest fastest.

"Everybody needs to help out a little to keep the world green," said volunteer Marcela Lopez as she patted down soil around a sapling on the west side of Mexico City.

Environmental group Greenpeace acknowledged the activity as part of a publicity stunt, adding that a cut back on logging practices would be the best way to keep forests in tact.

"This program is a fraud. Only 10 percent of what is planted survives, which means they are throwing the federal budget for reforestation straight into the garbage," the group said in a statement.

The Mexico City mayor has launched a number of green initiatives in hopes of effectively curbing city pollution.

Mexican Environment Minister Juan Rafael Elvira said the point of the tree planting was to raise environmental consciousness in Mexico, which ecologists also criticize for allowing the oil industry to contaminate many rural states.

"We don't just want a green country. We want to plant trees to nurture environmental conscience," he said.