Global Forest Watch, a powerful WRI tool to track and reduce tree cover loss, is now available in the field through a new mobile app called Forest Watcher, helping park rangers, villagers, and civil society groups find and halt illegal deforestation in tropical forest countries like Indonesia, Brazil, Peru, Cameroon and Uganda.
Tropical tree cover loss has risen steadily over the past two decades as the demand for agricultural and pasture land increases. It is hard to prevent because it often happens in remote areas where officials and other forest protectors can’t see it. Often people working to stop forest clearing lack the internet connection they need to access satellite forest data. Forest managers may need days, weeks or even months to discover where illegal deforestation is occurring—too late to catch the perpetrators and hold them accountable.
Created in 2016 as the pilot of WRI, the Jane Goodall Institute, Google and the National Forestry Authority in Uganda, Forest Watcher is a mobile application that allows easy, offline access to information about forest change based on annual tree cover loss data from Global Forest Watch. Now, with the incorporation of WRI’s GLAD (Global Land Analysis & Discovery) alerts developed with the University of Maryland, forest managers in the field have access to high-resolution, quickly available data to pinpoint where deforestation is happening. WRI and local partner organizations trained forest managers, including law enforcement officers and members of indigenous communities, to use these powerful tools. This latest version of Forest Watcher has been downloaded over 6,000 times as of 2018. Many users are in important tropical forest countries including Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Paraguay, Peru and Uganda.
In 2018, Forest Watcher and GLAD alerts resulted in interdictions and arrests for illegal deforestation. In Indonesia, more than 2,400 instances of illegal logging were documented, and government authorities successfully prosecuted 50 cases of illegal logging. In the Brazilian Amazon, where just a dozen police patrol a forest the size of Nepal, officers used WRI tools and worked with local communities to identify priority areas and arrest people illegally clearing forests. In Peru, a Quechua community used Forest Watcher and GLAD alerts to discover a clandestine coca plantation on their land. They used WRI tools featuring satellite evidence of the deforestation to confront the perpetrators, who ultimately ceased their activity.