In the recent Forest forum meeting we shared Complicit in Corruption - a recent report written by non-profit Earthsight, highlighting the widespread corruption in Ukraine's forests, and revealing how illegality permeates the timber supply chain in Ukraine from harvest to export.
Earthsight spent two years running field and undercover investigations in Ukraine. Approximately 70% of Ukraine's timber exports enter the EU and Earthsight's investigations indicate that 40% of this timber is being illegally harvest or traded. The report also claims that a significant volume of illegally harvested timber has received the FSC stamp - the former chief of one of the largest timber producing state-forest enterprises admitted to Earthsight he had found it easy to circumvent FSC checks.
A new study finds that illegal logging, coupled with weak state-run timber licensing systems, has led to massive timber harvesting fraud in Brazil, resulting in huge illicit harvests of Ipê trees. Ipê wood is largely shipped to the U.S. and Europe with the high value (up to $2,500 per cubic meter at export). Buyers all along the timber supply chain turn a blind eye toward fraud, with sawmills, exporters, and importers trusting the paperwork they receive, rather than questioning whether the lower prices they pay for Ipê and other timber may be due to timber laundering. This process is doing major damage to the Amazon. To reduce document fraud, the Brazilian federal government required that all states register or integrate their timber licensing systems within a national timber inventory and tracking system known as Sinaflor. While this should reduce fraudulent paperwork, better oversight of forest management plans and more onsite inspections of timber operations are needed also.
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.
Campaigning organisation Greenpeace has spent two months placing GPS trackers on illegal loggers in the Amazon using GPS tracking technology and satellite surveillance. The operation was designed to uncover the activities and movements of illegal loggers near Santarém, the centre of the logging industry in the Amazon. The investigation found that the timber is transported by trucks on highways at night to evade the police and that fake documentation is used to launder the timber.
A Brazilian company which designs technology to track and trace expensive goods has created a device which can be placed inside felled trees found in protected areas. When the felled trees are then transported to sawmills by illegal loggers, location updates are sent to a central server. Law enforcement agencies closed one sawmill and made several arrests during a pilot last year of 20 of the devices and the company hopes this will convince the government to roll out the technology.
The Viet Nam Administration of Forestry announced that over 13,700 violations of forest protection and timber management laws were reported in the first six months of 2012. Around 623ha of forest land have been lost in this period as a result of changes in forest use purposes, illegal logging and forest fires. Government ministries working on the issue aim to tighten controls on the wood processing industry and local authorities have been ordered to review existing forestry projects and ensure that forest protection programmes are adequately funded.
The Surui Forest Carbon Project (SFCP) is the first UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) project to directly pay indigenous tribes to protect the rainforest. It provides carbon income to tribes protecting the Amazon against illegal loggers. However, Surui leaders claim that loggers have increased their threats and are trying to bribe dissenting members of the tribe with firearms. The tribe hopes that calling in the police will send a clear message to illegal loggers and also encourage other Amazonian tribes to adopt the SFCP model.
Article covering the new campaign by Survival International, backed by Colin Firth, which looks at the plight of one of the last remaining nomadic hunter-gathering Amazonian tribes whose existence is under threat from the activities and violence carried out by illegal loggers and cattle ranchers. Despite the overall decrease in the rate of deforestation in Brazil, the state which is home to the threatened tribe has recorded a sharp rise in deforestation.
Feature on the state of illegal logging in Cambodia looking at how villagers are making efforts to protect their forests against deforestation in the face of corruption, inactivity from the government and threats from illegal loggers. It also draws attention to the concessions the government has begun giving to private investors on protected areas, legalising unsustainable cutting. The World Bank estimates that 94% of logging in Cambodia by volume is illegal.
A remote sensing company has signed a deal with the Brazilian space agency to deliver near real-time satellite imagery to monitor forest clearing in the Amazon rainforest and target illegal logging as it happens. Illegal loggers have grown smart to the current monitoring system by clearing smaller areas to evade detection but the new system will provide a much higher level of granularity in its imaging. Such technology is seen as important in the development of an effective REDD+ programme.