Some people with very loud voices are trying to play down the importance of illegal logging.
Among these are the lobbyist Alan Oxley, who's on the payroll of big international timber companies; and the Tony Abbott government, which is trying to sink Australia's hard-won illegal logging legislation.
But even a cursory look shows that illegal logging is still at appalling levels in many developing nations:
- Nearly 90 percent of the timber extracted from the Democratic Republic of Congo is illegal, according to a report from the respected UK think-tank Chatham House, a recognized authority on the illegal logging issue.
- In the Peruvian Amazon, illegal logging has been described as a "crisis" in a recent scientific analysis led by Matt Finer and Clinton Jenkins. They found evidence of major violations in 68 percent of the timber concessions they assessed. The Peruvian government has already cancelled 30 percent of its concessions because of rampant illegal activities.
- In Indonesia, the Anti Forest-Mafia Coalition, an alliance of local environmental groups, has decried the ease with which anti-illegal-logging rules are being circumvented. Indonesia's timber-certification system is so loose, the group declared, that it is "nearly impossible" for companies to fail to be certified.
These are merely a sampling of stories that have appeared in the last ten days.
In reality, illegal logging imperils forests, promotes criminal activities, and steals market share from legitimate timber producers. It also defrauds developing nations of around $15 billion annually in direly needed revenues, and its toll approaches $100 billion annually if its environmental impacts are included.
The bottom line: Don't let anyone tell you illegal logging isn't a massive problem, or that we shouldn't be working hard to combat it.