Illegal logging still a scourge for forests globally

Some people with very loud voices are trying to play down the importance of illegal logging.

There's really nothing to worry about...

There's really nothing to worry about...

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. 

Will Australia back-slide on its illegal logging bill?

Illegal logging is a serious and very real problem in the tropics, promoting forest loss and damage and robbing developing nations of up to US$30 billion in direly needed revenues each year.  Illegal loggers also have an unfair advantage over legitimate timber producers.  It's for such reasons that it would be absurd for Australia to roll back or weaken its anti-logging bill.

Logging trucks in Borneo--forests are falling fast.

Logging trucks in Borneo--forests are falling fast.

After a great deal of debate and research, the previous Australian Government finally passed an illegal logging bill in March 2013.  ALERT member Bill Laurance played an active role in this debate, briefing the Australian Senate and writing extensively about the importance of the bill.

Now the new Australian Government, led by the conservative Liberal-National Party Coalition under Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is considering repealing the hard-won bill, according to World Growth International, a pro-industry group that lobbies for large international timber producers.  The LNP has declared a wide-ranging war on what it calls "red and green tape".

Nobody likes excess bureaucracy, but the illegal-logging bill is playing an important role in helping to reduce illegal logging, along with comparable legislation in the US (the Lacey Act) and Europe (the FLEGT initiative).  Repealing or weakening it would be astonishingly unwise.

If the LNP presses ahead with this ill-advised tack, Australian and international scientists must be ready to speak up forcefully and often.