Illegal logging
Illegal logging is the harvest, transportation, purchase or sale of timber
Timber may refer to:* Timber, a term common in the United Kingdom and Australia for wood materials * Timber, Oregon, an unincorporated community in the U.S...

 in violation of law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

s. The harvesting procedure itself may be illegal, including using corrupt means to gain access to forests; extraction without permission or from a protected area; the cutting of protected species; or the extraction of timber in excess of agreed limits (see Box 1).

Illegalities may also occur during transport, such as illegal processing and export; fraudulent declaration to customs; and the avoidance of taxes and other charges.

The problem

style="font-size: larger;" |
Box 1. Logging in national parks: the case of Korindo (Indonesia)
In March 2004, Greenpeace
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, The Netherlands...

 carried out of actions against a cargo ship transporting timber from the Indonesian company Korindo, which was being imported into France, UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Korindo is known to be using illegal timber from the last rainforests of Indonesia. In May 2003, an Indonesian Government investigation confirmed that Korindo was receiving illegal timber from notorious timber barons known to obtain timber from an orang-utan refuge – the Tanjung Puting National Park.
Tanjung Puting National Park is a 4,000 square kilometre conservation area of global importance. It is recognised as a world biosphere reserve by the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 and forms the largest protected area of swamp forest in South-East Asia.

Illegal logging is a pervasive problem, causing enormous damage to forests, local communities and to the economies of producer countries. Despite the economic importance of trade in timber and forest products, major international timber consumer countries, such as the EU, have no legal means to halt the import of illegally sourced forest products, because the identification of illegally logged or traded timber is technically difficult. Therefore, a legal basis for normative acts against timber imports or other products manufactured out of illegal wood is missing. Scientific methods to pinpoint the geographic origin of timber are currently under development. Possible actions to restrict imports cannot meet with WTO regulations of non-discrimination. They must instead be arranged in bilateral agreements.


It is estimated that illegal logging in public lands alone causes losses in assets and revenue in excess of 10 billion USD annually. Although exact figures are difficult to obtain, given the illegal nature of the activity, reliable estimates indicate that more than a considerable share, in some cases more than the half of all logging activities in particularly vulnerable regions – the Amazon Basin
Amazon Basin
The Amazon Basin is the part of South America drained by the Amazon River and its tributaries that drains an area of about , or roughly 40 percent of South America. The basin is located in the countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela...

, Central Africa
Central Africa
Central Africa is a core region of the African continent which includes Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda....

, Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

, the Russian Federation
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and some of the Baltic states
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 – is illegal.

Available figures and estimations must be dealt with cautiously. Governments may tend to underestimate the situation. High estimates of illegal logging may constitute an embarrassment as these hint at ineffective enforcement of legislation or, even worse, bribery and corruption. On the other hand, environmental NGOs publish alarming figures to raise awareness and to emphasise the need for stricter conservation measures. For companies of the forest sector, publications providing high estimations can be regarded as potentially threatening for their reputation and their market perspective, including the competitiveness of wood in comparison to other materials. However, for many countries, NGOs are the only source of information apart from state institutions that probably clearly underestimate the situation. For example, the Republic of Estonia calculated an amount of 1% illegally harvested timber in 2003, whereas it is estimated to reach a maximum of 50% by the ENGO "Estonian Green Movement". But if to rise Estonian Green Movement's methodology and standards into European level, then every Western European country would get much worse score, probably around 99.9% illegal cuttings, because Estonian greens have pushed so much bureaucracy into Estonian Forest Act, that no other country has such over regulated law, and most of Estonian 'illegal logging' comes from rules that are not known in other countries. In Latvia, the situation is comparable. Anecdotal evidence points towards 25% of logging being illegal.


Illegal logging contributes to deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 and by extension global warming, causes loss of biodiversity and undermines the rule of law. These illegal activities undermine responsible forest management, encourage corruption and tax evasion and reduce the income of the producer countries, further limiting the resources producer countries can invest in sustainable development. Illegal logging has serious economic and social implications for the poor and disadvantaged.

Furthermore, the illegal trade of forest resources undermines international security, and is frequently associated with corruption, money laundering, organized crime, human rights abuses and, in some cases, violent conflict. In the forestry sector, cheap imports of illegal timber and forest products, together with the non-compliance of some economic players with basic social and environmental standards, destabilise international markets. This unfair competition affects those European companies, especially the small and medium sized companies that are behaving responsibly and ready to play by fair rules.

Statistics on illegal logging

style="font-size: larger;" |
Box 2. Loss of revenue to governments of producer countries
The scale of illegal logging represents a major loss of revenue to many countries and can lead to widespread associated environmental damage. A senate committee in the Philippines estimated that the country lost as much as US$1.8bn per year during the 1980s. The Indonesian government estimated in 2002 that costs related to illegal logging are US$3bn each year. The World Bank estimates that illegal logging costs timber-producing countries between 10 and 15 billion euros per year. This compares with 10 billion euros disbursed as EC aid in 2002.
  • A joint UK-Indonesian study of the timber industry in Indonesia in 1998 suggested that about 40% of throughput was illegal, with a value in excess of $365 million. More recent estimates, comparing legal harvesting against known domestic consumption plus exports, suggest that 88% of logging in the country is illegal in some way. Malaysia is the key transit country for illegal wood products from Indonesia.
  • In Brazil, 80% of logging in the Amazon
    Amazon Rainforest
    The Amazon Rainforest , also known in English as Amazonia or the Amazon Jungle, is a moist broadleaf forest that covers most of the Amazon Basin of South America...

     violates government controls. At the core of illegal logging is widespread corruption. Often referred to as ‘green gold’, mahogany can fetch over US$1,600 m-3. Illegal mahogany opens the door for illegal logging of other species, and for widespread exploitation of the Brazilian Amazon. Recent Greenpeace investigations in the Brazilian state of Pará reveal just how deeply rooted the problem remains. No reliable legal chain of custody exists for mahogany, and the key players in its trade are ruthless.
  • The World Bank
    World Bank
    The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

     estimates that 80% of logging operations are illegal in Bolivia and 42% in Colombia, 10 while in Peru, illegal logging equals 80% of all activities.
  • Research carried out by WWF
    World Wide Fund for Nature
    The World Wide Fund for Nature is an international non-governmental organization working on issues regarding the conservation, research and restoration of the environment, formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States...

     International in 2002 shows that in Africa, rates of illegal logging vary from 50% for Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea to 70% in Gabon and 80% in Liberia – where revenues from the timber industry also fuelled the civil war.
  • WWF
    World Wide Fund for Nature
    The World Wide Fund for Nature is an international non-governmental organization working on issues regarding the conservation, research and restoration of the environment, formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States...

     estimates that illegal logging in Russia
    Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

     is at least 20%, reaching up to 50% in its far eastern regions.

African FLEG (AFLEG)

The AFLEG Ministerial Conference was held in Yaoundé, Cameroon in October 2003. The meeting drew together ministers and stakeholders from Africa, Europe and North America to consider how partnerships between producers and consumers, donors, civil society and the private sector could potentially address illegal forest exploitation and associated trade in Africa.

The Conference was the second regional FLEG, following East Asia, and resulted in the endorsement of a Ministerial Declaration and Action Plan for AFLEG, as well as a broad range of informal implementation initiatives.

East Asia FLEG

The East Asia FLEG Ministerial Conference took place in Bali in September 2001. The Conference brought together nearly 150 participants from 20 countries, representing government, international organizations, NGOs, and the private sector. The event was co-hosted by the World Bank and the Government of Indonesia.

The meeting included detailed technical discussions of forest law enforcement in relation to governance, forest policy and forest management as well as ministerial engagement.

The Conference's primary aims were to share analysis on forest law enforcement; explore priority issues of forest law enforcement, including illegal logging in the East Asia region, among senior officials from forest and related ministries, NGOs and industry representatives; and commit to action at the national and regional level.

European and North Asia FLEG

The ENA FLEG Ministerial Conference was held in Russia in November 2005. In May 2004, the Russian Federation announced its intention to host the Europe and North Asia Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (ENA FLEG) process, supported by the World Bank. A preparatory conference was, held in Moscow in June 2005, and the final Ministerial conference in St. Petersburg on 22–25 November 2005.

The conference brought together nearly 300 participants representing 43 governments, the private sector, civil society and international organisations. It agreed to the St. Petersburg Declaration on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance in Europe and North Asia. The Declaration includes an indicative list of actions, intended to serve as a general framework for possible actions to be undertaken by governments as well as civil society.

The conference took place as the UK prepared to pass the G8 Presidency to Russia. As Valery Roshchupkin, Head of the Federal Forestry Agency of the Russian Federation, confirmed, illegal logging would be of special importance for Russia as the G8 President and for the next G8 Summit, also scheduled to be held in St. Petersburg.

EU FLEGT Action Plan

In May 2003 the European Commission presented an action plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). This marked the beginning of a long process by which the EU aims to develop and implement measures to address illegal logging and related trade. The primary means of implementing the Plan is through Voluntary Partnership Agreements with timber producing countries.

United States

The United States is the world’s largest consumer of wood products and one of the top importers of tropical trees. Many speculate that the United States’ high demand for timber is the driving force behind illegal logging worldwide. The U.S. has limited policy addressing illegal logging. The closest is the Lacey Act of 1900, which prohibits sales of poached wildlife and plants across state lines. However, the Act offers weaker protection for plants than for wildlife, as it requires the species of plant to be indigenous to the specific state. Furthermore, the Act only applies when a state has specific legislation in place protecting the plant in question. Misdemeanor violations of the Act are punishable by up to one year in jail and a $10,000 fine; felony-level violations by up to two years in jail and a fine of $20,000.

A failed attempt to amend the Lacey Act in 2007 would have redefined the word “plant” to mean any wild member of the plant kingdom, including roots, seeds, parts, and excluding any common food crop and species not listed in the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species. Also, the word “take” would have been expanded to include the harvesting, cutting, logging, or removing of a plant. However, despite endorsements from conservation groups and widespread support from Democrats in Congress, the bill failed to pass.

See also

  • Environmental vandalism
  • List of environmental issues
  • Illegal logging in Madagascar
    Illegal logging in Madagascar
    Illegal logging has been a problem in Madagascar for decades and is perpetuated by extreme poverty and government corruption. Often taking the form of selective logging, the trade has been driven by high international demand for expensive, fine-grained lumber such as rosewood and ebony...

External links

European Union
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.