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Illegal Logging

Implications for Those Buying and Supplying Illegal Timber

Companies that buy products containing illegal timber may do so knowingly or because they have failed to exercise due diligence over their supply chains. Either way, the potential negative consequences of trading in such products include the following:

The global trade in illegally extracted timber is a multibillion dollar industry. Illegal logging occurs when timber is harvested, transported, processed, bought, or sold in violation or circumvention of national or sub-national laws. Although generally portrayed as a problem in tropical forests, illegality also occurs in developed countries and economies in transition.

Negative Impact of Illegal Logging

Illegal logging takes place in many countries on a small scale and has limited impact on the environment or society in general. However, in a significant number of countries, illegal logging is a major problem that poses a serious threat to forests, communities, and wildlife.

The negative impacts of illegal logging include:

Further information within the WWF website on the negative impacts of illegal logging can be found here.

Countries Where Illegal Harvesting Takes Place

Although exact figures are difficult to obtain (given the nature of the activity), recent estimates of the scale of illegal logging in some countries are provided below. Every effort is made to keep this table as up to date as possible, but it is suggested that the www.illegal-logging.info website is used as a starting point to obtain the latest information.

It is worth noting that all of the sources below have employed a variety of methodologies to derive the estimated figures. The most recent data available suggests that there may be some reduction in some countries though this is difficult to assess given the range of methods employed. What is clear is that nearly all of the countries highlighted have, and continue to experience, serious levels of illegal harvesting and illegal trade in their forest products industries and are therefore considered high-risk from the purchasers perspective.

Country sources of illegally harvested timber

Country

American Forest & Paper Association Estimates of “Suspicious” Timber

Other Estimates of Illegal Logging

Source of Other Estimates

Eastern Europe

Russia

15–20% of production
15–30% of exports

25% of exports

25–50% of exports

 

30% of production
(one-third)

 

20–60% of production

World Bank 2005 (1)

 

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service 2005 (2)

House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (UK) 2006 (3)

IUCN 2005 (4)

 

Estonia

 

50% of production

 

50% of production

Taiga Rescue Network 2005 (5)
Estonian Green Movement 2004 (6).

Latvia

 

20% of production

 

15–20% of production

Taiga Rescue Network 2005 (5)
WWF Latvia 2003 (7).

Africa

Cameroon

30% of production

50–65% of production

25% of all production
(less in export oriented production)

World Bank/WWF Alliance 2002 (8)

Chatham House 2009 (19)

Equatorial Guinea

30% of production

 

 

Gabon

30% of production

 

 

Liberia

30% of production

100% of production

National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) 2005 (9)

Ghana

30% of production

50% of production

The Forestry Commission of Ghana 2003 (10)

Asia Pacific

Vietnam

 

73% of imports from high-risk countries

Chatham House 2009 (19)

Indonesia

60% of production
55% of plywood exports
100% of log exports

80% of production

 

83% of production

40% of harvest

House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (UK) 2006 (3)

CIFOR 2004 (11)

Chatham House 2009 (19)

Malaysia

5% of production
70% of log imports

 

 

Papua New Guinea

20% of production

65% of log exports

Forest Trends 2006 (12)

China

30% of production
30-32% of export products

50% of production

 

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service 2005 (13)

Latin America

Brazil

15% of production
15% of export products

37% of production

Imazon 2005 (14)

Peru

 

70-90% of production

80%

 

> 90% of exports (mahogany)

ITTO 2002 (15)
The Peruvian Environmental Law Society, 2003 (16)

 

ParksWatch 2005 (17)

Ecuador

 

70% of production

Ecuador's Wood Industry Association 2005 (18)

 

 

 

 

Note: Note that illegal harvesting does not just occur in developing countries. It occurs to a limited extent across Europe and North America. Good regulatory systems that are enforced, however, ensure that it is kept to a minimum.

For more information on illegal logging go to www.illegal-logging.info. The site is maintained by the Energy, Environment and Development Programme of Chatham House in London, with funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

(1) World Bank, 2005, Forest Law Enforcement Governance (FLEG) in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia (ENA-FLEG). p. 8.
(2) USDA Foreign Agricultural Service GAIN Report, 2005, Russian Federation Solid Wood Products Forestry Sector Continues to Struggle 2005. p. 4.
(3) House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, 2006, Sustainable Timber: Second Report of Session 2004-05. p. 12.
(4) IUCN Global Temperate and Boreal Forest Programme IUCN Office for Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, 2005, The Beginning of the ENA FLEG Process in Russia: Civil Society Insights. p. 21.
(5) Taiga Rescue Network, 2005, Sweden: Forest Industry – Giant with Big Timber Footprints in the Baltic Region. p. 2.
(6) Estonian Green Movement, 2004, Illegal forestry and Estonian timber exports. p. 2.
(7) WWF Latvia, 2003, The features of illegal logging and related trade in the Baltic Sea region. p. 5.
(8) World Bank / WWF Alliance, 2002, Forest Law Assessment in Selected African Countries. p. 19.
(9) All logging concessions in Liberia were cancelled in Feb 2006 following a report by the Forest Concession Review Committee - Phase 3, 31 May 2005, which had found that no individual concession holder was able to demonstrate sufficient level of legal compliance. UN Security Council sanctions were re-imposed on Liberian timber exports in December 2005.
(10) The Forestry Commission of Ghana, 2003, Keynote Address by Hon. Prof. Dominic K. Fobi - Minister for Lands & Forestry.
(11) Tacconi L, Obidzinski K, Agung F, 2004. Learning Lessons to Promote Certification and Control Illegal Logging in Indonesia, Report for the WWF/TNC Alliance to Promote Forest Certification and Combat Illegal Logging in Indonesia, Centre for International Forestry Research.
(12) Forest Trends, 2006, Logging, Legality, and Livelihoods in Papua New Guinea: Synthesis of Official Assessments of the Large Scale Logging Industry Volume I.
(13) USDA Foreign Agricultural Service GAIN Report, 2003, People’s Republic of China Solid Wood Products Annual 2003. P. 5.
(14) Figure based on data from IMAZON (Amazon Institute of People and the Environment) and Brazil’s environmental agency Ibama. Imazon, 2005, Human Pressure in the Brazilian Amazon. P. 5.
(15) ITTO, 2002, Achieving the ITTO Objective 2000 and Sustainable Forest Management in Peru – Report of the Diagnostic Mission. P. 4.
(16) The Peruvian Environmental Law Society, 2003, Case Study on the Development and Implementation of Guidelines for the Control of Illegal Logging with a view to Sustainable Forest Management in Peru.
(17) ParksWatch, 2005, An Investigation of Illegal Mahogany Logging in Peru’s Alto Purús National Park and its Surroundings. The report confirmed nearly all of Peru’s exports of Mahogany were illegal.
(18) Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), 2005, Interim Environmental Review of the United States-Andean Free Trade Agreement.
(19) Chatham House, 2009, Illegal Logging and Related Trade: 2008 Assessment of the Global Response (Pilot study), Duncan Brack, Sam Lawson & Larry MacFaul.

 

Seneca Creek Associates and Wood Resources International, 2004, “Illegal” Logging and Global Wood Markets: The Competitive Impacts on the U.S. Wood Products Industry.” Prepared for American Forest & Paper Association. Available from www.afandpa.org.


 




This is an excerpt from WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) Guide to Responsible Purchasing. All rights reserved. © WWF. The full text can be accessed online at rpg.gftn.panda.org.

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