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The Year in Illegal Logging: A Look Back

2010 was a significant year for global efforts to tackle illegal logging. Here’s a look back on some of that progress.

Long a problem in many of the world’s forests, illegal logging has unsustainable impacts. It deprives governments of tax revenue. It puts law-abiding companies at a competitive disadvantage. And it negatively impacts forest-dependent peoples, not to mention the world’s biodiversity and climate.

But 2010 brought encouraging news on the illegal logging front, and from both ends of the supply chain.

Let’s start with wood-producing countries. In July, the world learned from a Chatham House report that illegal logging fell by 50-75 percent during the past decade in Indonesia, Cameroon, and the Brazilian Amazon, three forest-rich nations. Better law enforcement, improved forest monitoring and increased focus on the issue all contributed to these improvements. More recently, Indonesia announced that it will deliberate a bill to toughen penalties for those involved in illegal logging, while Malaysia revised its Forest Act to stiffen penalties for illegal logging.

These are significant reductions and actions. Governments, many in the private sector, and civil society should be congratulated for their respective roles in these accomplishments.

2010 brought good news from wood-consuming countries, too. The United States indicated that it is serious about using the amended Lacey Act to curtail trade in illegal wood. For instance, reports came to light of a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service seizure of tropical hardwoods from Peru and of movement on the investigation into Gibson’s alleged purchase of illegal wood from Madagascar.

Likewise, the European Union (EU) approved the EU Illegal Timber Regulation in 2010. Similar to Lacey, the law prohibits the sale in Europe of timber logged illegally under the rules of the country of origin. Furthermore, the Australian government recently announced plans to introduce a Lacey-like ban on illegal timber products.

Climate agreements regarding “Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in developing countries” (REDD+) have the potential to reinforce existing efforts to curtail illegal logging. The same is true for the visionary forest-climate bilateral agreements between forest-rich countries such as Indonesia or Brazil and nations such as Norway.

The groundwork, therefore, appears to be laid for another year of progress. If so, 2011 would take a further cut out of the illegal cut.

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