WWF-Russia recommends companies to not source nor use wood obtained from salvage logging, and to take additional measures to verify the legality of sanitary wood felling, such as increasing company field audits, until the risk of illegal wood from salvage logging entering supply chains has been minimised drastically.
Collected news links from external sources related to topics concerning the Book Chain Project.
Greenpeace is campaigning for a ban on phthalates in toys marketed in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) countries of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. Phthalates is a family of toxic, synthetic, high production volume industrial chemicals used mostly to make plastics softer and more flexible. (Relevant story: NRDC and Scientists Urge CPSC to Finalize Phthalate Bans)
The largest hardwood flooring retailer in the United States, Lumber Liquidators, agreed to plead guilty to several violations of the Lacey Act. The company will have to pay a combined $13.2 million for importing illegally harvested timber from areas including forests in far eastern Russia and other compliance issues. The raids that led to the charges followed investigations and reports by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and WWF. Lumber Liquidators faces separate allegations that it imported laminated wood products with illegal levels of formaldehyde.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) is working with environmentalists to combat illegal logging in the country’s Far East. Activists from WWF described long term collaboration with officials from Russia’s former KGB service in the effort to combat corruption and illegal timber exports as “unusual” but also unavoidable. WWF has been providing training for local customs officials on how to spot illegal species. A 2013 report by the Environmental Investigation Agency estimated that 96% of the valuable hardwoods harvested in the Russian Far East end up in China, while at least 80% of all felled trees have been logged illegally.
China's Heilongjiang province, which borders Russia to its north and east, contains 18.5 million hectares of state forest - more natural forest than any other province in the country. However, since the mid-twentieth century, Heilongjiang has had over 600 million cubic meters of timber extracted from its woodlands. Now, China is trying out a complete ban on commercial logging in the province's state-owned forests. Forestry experts predict that this trial ban will allow forests to regenerate hence, replenishing timber supplies, but will also push the industry to focus on improved forest management. According to the State Forestry Administration, to ensure that the ban is enforced and implemented over its intended time frame, the central Chinese government has allocated 2.35 billion yuan ($375 million) per year to cover forestry workers’ living costs between 2014 and 2020. If the ban succeeds, it could be extended throughout northeastern China and Inner Mongolia.
China has halted commercial logging by state firms in forests in the vast north-eastern province of Heilongjiang bordering Russia, home to much of the country’s timber industry, a move experts see as a significant step to curb over-exploitation of timber. The central government has allocated 2.35bn yuan a year to cover forestry workers’ living costs between 2014 and 2020. During the last century, warfare and unrest depleted and damaged the forests. More recently, economic growth has taken a further toll. There are concerns about the long-term ecological impacts if management of the forests does not improve with the region being an important agricultural zone and concerns about deforestation disrupting rainfall patterns.
Lumber Liquidators, the top-selling flooring retailer in the US, is currently under investigation over whether it has been importing illegally logged wood products from the Russian Far East in violation of the US Lacey Act. The company is now facing class action lawsuits from investors following criticism from a noted hedge fund adviser who has argued that the recent increases in the company’s profit margins have come, in part, by increasing imports of illegally harvested wood from China and the Russian Far East.
Officers from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided the corporate headquarters of Lumber Liquidators, the top-selling flooring retailer in America, in Toano, Virginia. ICE agents were investigating whether the company had imported illegally logged wood products from eastern Russia. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has published a sobering report which gives details that Lumber Liquidators has allegedly purchased millions of square feet of illegally logged hardwoods in the Russian Far East.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have joined forces to promote viable forestry investment and innovation in the Russian Federation's Far East based on sustainable use of forest resources. Improving legal frameworks and the inventory of forest resources; developing modern forestry infrastructures and supporting services, in particular railway transportation networks; introducing modern logging, as well as harvesting and wood-processing technologies; providing adequate training at local level; clearly designating and protecting forest areas of high biodiversity value are among the key Roadmap recommendations.
A report from the UK- and US-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has said that up to 80% of the hardwood harvested in the Russian far east is logged illegally. The EIA say the demand for this material comes from Chinese sawmills and subsequently their western customers. The material that is of most concern is illegally logged Russian oak. US wood flooring retailer, Lumber Liquidators, was named in the report as being heavily reliant on Chinese suppliers who allegedly mainly sell illegally logged material. The EIA say the US and EU regulations on illegal logging are important pressure points where they now have the ability to intervene – before now, and without this pressure, illegal logging in Siberia has seen rapid expansion. Despite industry incentives from the Russian government, incredible demand from China has led to Chinese sawmills establishing just over the China-Russia border. EIA’s investigations suggest that most of these mills rely on a supply of illegally logged timber.
Four Russians have been charged with smuggling timber valued at $3m per month into neighbouring China. The four are accused of using dozens of different companies and fake documents to smuggle 150 freight cars of lumber every month. Police believe the four are part of a much larger smuggling ring. Trade across the border is driven by huge Chinese demand for raw materials, and illegal trade increased dramatically after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Illegal timber trade from Russia to China in 2011 was valued at $1.3 billion, accounting for around 10 million cubic metres of logs and sawn timber.
Russian police have busted an international group suspected of costing the state over 2 billion rubles ($60 million) through the illegal purchase and sale to China of timber, Russia’s Interior Ministry reported on Wednesday.
“It has been established that a group of Chinese citizens in Russian regions bordering China was paying cash for large volumes of illegal timber and legalizing it for export to China using documents forged by their Russian accomplices,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Russian government has committed up to $12.4 billion over the next eight years to be spent on forestry protection. This will include restoration and improvement of species composition in forests, reducing illegal logging and addressing the black market in timber, improving aerial monitoring, cultivating trees for restoration and creating fire ponds to protect against wildfires. In response to the announcement of the policy, the CEO of the forestry company RusForest called for privatisation of the country’s forest, saying that this would incentivise longer term investment in the management of Russia’s forests. The current model is for companies such as RusForest to manage areas of forest on relatively short-term leases from the government. Russia currently imports more paper than it produces despite having around 700 million hectares of forest.