The Report on Transparency in the Ecuadorian Forestry Sector - Common Questions - included two information search and survey stages. The first (September and December 2010) exclusively comprised information gathering through bibliographic information collection and electronic searches at three public institutions directly involved in forestry sector management and administration (Ministry of the Environment - MAE, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries - MAGAP, and the Coordinating Ministry of Natural and Cultural Heritage - MCP).
The second stage (January through March 2010) focused on collecting missing information through interviews with the various authorities. By broadening the universe of institutions, we also analyzed whether the information existed outside of the institutional portals and if it was opportunely made available, as set forth in the Organic Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information (LOTAIP).
Due to the characteristics of the forestry sector in Ecuador, some questions are not applicable. For example, question 4.5, which refers to public access to reports on consultation processes, is applicable in countries where the State owns the forest resources, rather than just overseeing resource management and logging, as is the case in Ecuador. Article 10 of the Forestry Law (Codification of the Law of Forestry and Conservation of Natural Areas and Wildlife, 2004), provides that the State shall guarantee the right of private property on forestlands and in privately owned forests, under the limitations established in the Constitution and the Law.
Even though State-owned forest resources do exist, they are for the most part limited to the National System of Protected Areas (SNAP), where commercial logging is prohibited. The remaining forest resources are de facto private and located, in the main (70 %), on collectively held indigenous lands (Añazco, Morales, Palacios, Vega, & Cuesta, 2010). This gives forest management the nature of a private business in which the forestry authority oversees the rational use of resources.
In general, Section Six (6), which refers to the notion of forestry concession, rounds of forestry permit assignment, and assessment of environmental impact, is not relevant to forestry development in the country. Forest use permits and their respective mobilization permits are dispensed, as part of their beneficial interest, to the owners of the property on which native forest is located, though under the supervision of the forestry authority and upon submission and acceptance of a management plan. Furthermore, the concept of environmental services is under development in the Ecuadorian legal framework, and the steps and processes for allocating rights over them have not yet been defined.
Finally, Section Twelve (12) is not applicable, since there is no tax regime in the forestry management and timber use system apart from payment for use of standing timber (piedmont) and of the usual taxes on economic activities (income tax, property tax, etc.). This lack of specific royalties on the use of timber resources prevents application of concepts of specific tax redistribution for the forestry sector. Nevertheless, the Socio Bosque [Forest Partner] Project, created in 2008 to encourage conservation of forests in Ecuador, can be considered a benefit redistribution system for populations in forest areas.
We monitored twelve institutions involved in the Ecuadorian forestry sector and directly related to the transparency report's common questions. Among these institutions, the following were the most important:
a) The Ministry of the Environment (MAE), which is the national environmental authority responsible for policies, programs, and strategies directly related to the forestry sector, especially with regard to native forests, and for forestry control and regulation of timber logging.
b) The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries (MAGAP), which is responsible for policies in the agricultural sector. Concerning the forestry sector, specifically, MAGAP fosters agroforestry nationwide and coordinates private and state investment in forestation and reforestation programs.
c) The Coordinating Ministry of Natural and Cultural Heritage (MCP) is a supra-ministerial body responsible for coordinating and monitoring the policies, plans, and programs implemented by the ministries and institutions under its jurisdiction, which it does through information, technical support, monitoring, and evaluation processes. In addition, the MCP promotes projects that contribute to the fulfillment of the Plan Nacional del Buen Vivir [National Good Living Plan].
To locate information at the aforementioned institutions, we relied on Article 91 of the current (2008) Constitution and, above all, on the Organic Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information (2004).
Based on the LOTAIP criteria, searches focused on analyzing information available on the institutions' portals by way of their search engines and through public-access search engines. The initial results were reinforced with searches through specific search engines (the Lexis search engine for legal research (2011)), which particularly enabled accessing forestry regulations and decrees that were not published on the portals (Figure 2).
Searches were recorded in digital files through ZOTERO, the program for online bibliographic list creation (Centre for History and New Media, 2009) (Figure 3).