Illegal logging has fallen by 22 per cent globally, and up to 75 per cent in the Brazilian Amazon and Indonesia. This good news was presented in a report by U.K. think tank Chatham House last month.
“Up to a billion of the world’s poorest people are dependent on forests, and reductions in illegal logging are helping to protect their livelihoods,” said Sam Lawson, Chatham House Associate Fellow and lead author of the report.
The world’s forests also play a vital part in storing carbon and as habitat for half of all terrestrial flora and fauna. Illegal logging is a serious threat not only to the forests’ inhabitants but also fuels CO2 emissions, corruption and conflict.
The study credits political pressure from NGOs and improvement in regulations and practices by the industry for the positive development. However, a lot more needs to be done.
The U.S. Lacey Act and the EU’s recent decision to ban imports of illegal timber from 2012 are important steps, as is a growing interest in the industry in using sustainably managed timber.
The Forest Stewardship council (FSC) promotes responsible management of the world’s forests in 50 countries worldwide. And organization The Forest Trust (TFT), a member of FSC, is helping companies purchase legally harvested logs as well as supporting good forest management.
For example, they recently helped a Chinese factory produce the first legal plywood in China for a UK company. China is the world’s top importer and exporter of illegal wood, so this was an important achievement, says TFT director Scott Poynton.
A TFT-label assures the customer that the log can be traced all the way back to its stump.
“It is a challenging process, but it’s not impossible,” says Scott Poynton.
All logs are tagged and their species, length and diameter are documented. TFT controlled factories are visited three or four times a month to check where logs come from.
“Most of the logging is done by traders who mix logs that are legally logged with those that are illegal. The key place where smuggling of illegal logs come in is just before shipping,” says Scott Poynton.