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FS helps lead forest crime training in Botswana

WASHINGTON, D.C.—This summer, the USDA Forest Service co-led two weeks of training on illegal logging and trafficking for sub-Saharan professionals. This interagency training reflects a strong partnership between the Forest Service, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to reduce illegal logging globally and work cooperatively with source countries to prevent illegal wood entering the United States.

Ferries on Chobe River, border of Botswana and Zambia.
KAZA training field trip to the Kazungula border of Botswana and Zambia, where small boat ferries are used to transport people, goods including timber and vehicles across the Chobe River. A new four-lane bridge will open in 2020. USDA Forest Service photo.

The first week of the workshop was held at the International Law Enforcement Academy outside of Gaborone, Botswana. Forty-one students attended from Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, The Gambia, Republic of Congo and Zambia. The second week was held in Kasane, Botswana, with sponsorship from the United States Embassy in Botswana and the Botswana Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism. Week two reached 50 participants from the five countries sharing international borders in the Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The cadre of instructors and participants was both interagency and interdisciplinary, reflecting the complexity of forest crime issues. Forest Service Patrol Captain Shawn Graef (Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland) was an instructor, along with trial attorneys Patrick Duggan and Ryan Connors (Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division), Special Agent Kyle Maher (Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations) and senior technical advisor on conservation crimes Annie Arbuthnot (Department of State, Office of Conservation and Water).

Class photo taken outside law enforcement academy building, Botswana.
Participants in the illegal logging and trafficking course at International Law Enforcement Academy in Gaborone, Botswana. Photo courtesy ILEA Gaborone.
Patrol Captain Shawn Graef and graduates outside law enforcement academy.
USDA Forest Service Patrol Captain Shawn Graef with ILEA training participants from Benin and The Gambia. USDA Forest Service photo.

Students learned about the typology of forest crime and investigation methods; coordination between investigators, prosecutors, and judges; evidence processing and interviewing; international statutes; international financial investigations; customs and border enforcement; and successful prosecution strategies. Course participants included forestry rangers, protected area managers, customs and border patrol officials, law enforcement, prosecutors and magistrates.

These trainings are part of a global effort by the Forest Service to share our expertise in effective forest crime enforcement. Future trainings to combat illegal logging and trafficking will be held at ILEA Gaborone in 2020. Forest Service coordination and participation was funded by the Department of State and implemented by the International Programs office.