Logging is a major threat to tropical forests. Logging roads and clearings allow more light into the forest, resulting in a proliferation of undergrowth, and allows more desiccation during the dry season. Logging slash – large branches and the crown of the tree – are also left behind to dry out. All this makes logged forests far more fire prone, and allows fire to be transmitted further from the edge into the forest. Logging roads can also be a conduit for settlers into the forest.
Illegal logging has all these problems plus others. Legal logging results in royalties paid to local landowners or the state. There are often limits on the size of trees you can cut, and in many cases there are protected species. As with the drug trade, it’s very hard to police the trade in illegal timber at the source. Fines tend to be small, and it’s difficult to police the remote areas where the trees are being cut. It’s far easier to regulate consumers. When Western countries pontificate about tropical deforestation while still buying illegally cut timber, it ends up as nothing but pointless hypocrisy.
The BBC is reporting that a move is underway to allow people to be prosecuted for illegal logging in the countries where the logs are being sold.
Suppliers of illegally logged timber could be prosecuted in the countries where it is sold, under new proposals.
The move is being tabled at a gathering in Brazil of legislators from the Group of Eight (G8) richest economies and five key developing countries.
It calls for countries to pass domestic legislation making it a criminal offence to handle such timber.
The report quotes British Labour MP Barry Gardiner:
“If a tree was felled illegally, let’s say in Ghana, and the wood from that tree ends up coming into the UK, then anybody who tries to sell that wood, who imports it or trades it in the UK, would be subject to a criminal prosecution,” he said.
“It would ensure that some of the poorest people in the world recapture the full value of the product that is being stolen from them at the moment. Illegal timber means stolen wood, and that’s what we are trying to combat.”
The report also quotes John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, who said:
“Greenpeace has repeatedly exposed how illegal timber continues to freely enter the UK and it is vital that European legislation is introduced to ensure that all timber products come from environmentally and socially responsible sources,” said Mr Sauven.
“As things stand today, companies who try to source timber responsibly are placed at a competitive disadvantage by others who choose not to question where their timber is sourced from. This situation is clearly unacceptable.”