In 1804, Haiti won its independence from France after the world’s only successful slave revolution. In 1825, a treaty was signed by which France recognized Haiti’s independence in exchange for 150 million gold Francs. A significant number of Haiti’s trees were felled and exported to France in order to service the debt.
Deforestation sped up after Hurricane Hazel downed trees throughout the island in 1954. Beginning in about 1954, concessionaires stepped up their logging operations in response to Port-au-Prince's intensified demand for charcoal. Deforestation accelerated, which had already become a problem because of environmentally unsound agricultural practices, rapid population growth, and increased competition over land.
By the turn of the century in 2000, 98% of Haiti had been deforested due to logging for timber, slash-and-burn agriculture, and the cutting of trees to fill the great demand for cooking fuel. Most of the land’s rich topsoil has washed into the sea, where it chokes the reefs and marine life.
Haiti’s mountains have eroded to bedrock and its aquifers are drying up. The habitat loss for wildlife is staggering, with many native plants and animals on international registries of endangered species. The deforestation and the resulting desertification is Haiti’s single largest ecological problem, which has had a negative ripple effect on the over all ecology of Haiti and its surrounding waters.