One quarter of Liberia’s total land area has been sold to logging companies over the last two years, a development that threatens widespread devastation in West Africa’s most heavily forested nation, a new investigation has found. According to a report by Global Witness, Save My Future Foundation and the Sustainable Development Institute, logging companies have used what the investigators call a legal loophole in the nation’s forest laws to secretly parcel out dozens of logging contracts covering 26,000 square kilometers. Created to allow landowners to cut trees on their land, these so-called Private Use Permits contain no sustainability requirements and have left 40 percent of the nation’s forests, including nearly half of Liberia’s most pristine forests, open to clearing, the report says. Under the terms of the contracts, the companies are required to pay only 1 percent of the timber’s value to the Liberian government. In response, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has suspended the head of the nation’s Forestry Development Authority and opened an investigation.