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.
Earlier this year Vietnam initialled a timber trade agreement with the EU that will see Vietnam implement legislation to address imports of illegally harvested and traded timber in return for timber exports to the EU. According to a recent EIA investigation, Vietnam continues its role as a serial offender in the illegal timber trade, with large volumes of illegal timber still flowing across the Cambodian border unhindered. EIA have identified three main areas within Cambodia where substantial illegal logging operations continue. EIA tracked timber from these sites is being smuggled out of Cambodia and into Vietnam across informal crossings.
Long known as a hotspot for rapid and largely illegal deforestation, Cambodia was singled out in a May 2017 EIA report. The report was the result of months of undercover investigations which found that from November 2016, more than 300,000 cubic metres (nearly 10.6 million cubic feet) of timber have been illegally felled in a wildlife sanctuary and two protected areas in Cambodia. Most of the timber was sold to Vietnam and generated $13 million in payments from Vietnamese timber traders. Environmental experts believe that a much-publicized crackdown on illegal logging launched in Cambodia in early 2016 had very little effect.
EU and Vietnam complete negotiations on a deal to combat illegal logging and promote trade in legal timber
The EU and Vietnam conclude negotiations on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). The agreement will help improve forest governance, address illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products from Vietnam to the EU, and other markets.
The yearlong ban on logging across all of Myanmar since April 2016 was lifted at the end of March 2017, and now the Myanmar government says it is on its way to bringing verifiably legal timber to the international market. Although a number of illegal activities were prevented by the government, illegal logging continued during the ban due to insufficiently collaboration. International buyers and local NGOs are concerned that Myanmar is not doing enough to keep its forests safe.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resource of Australia has decided that certified businesses are required to maintain an equivalent due diligence system under PEFC Chain of Custody standard, and also AFS (Australia’s PEFC-endorsed national forest certification system), which means that PEFC-certified companies in Australia are now recognized as automatically meeting the due diligence requirements in the illegal logging regulation of Australia, and no separate due diligence system prepared for the illegal logging regulation specifically is not required.
Fern have produced a report outlining China’s efforts in combatting the trade of illegally sourced timber. The report covers the forest policies and timber trade trends in China as well as the engagement from national and international bodies. Strategies for China-EU efforts in tackling illegal logging and forest governance failure and other drivers of deforestation are also shared. One recommendation includes a robust enforcement of the EUTR in imports from China.
More than 30 environmental groups have signed a statement against the renewal of regional forest agreements (RFAs) for the logging of Australian native forests. A report shared last week by the National Park Association of NSW showed that the logging has resulted in an increase of threatened species. It also noted that the agreements designed in 1990 didn’t acknowledge how the loss of forests would contribute to climate change. The environmental groups stand firm and will not accept any extensions, rollovers or renewals.
According to satellite data analysed by researchers at Michigan State University, tree cover increased significantly on about 1.6% of China’s territory between 2000 and 2010, while tree cover dropped on only 0.38% of China’s land. The researchers attributed the forest gain to China’s Natural Forest Conservation Program, which has banned logging in many of the country’s forests and set up systems to prosecute illegal logging. The NFCP also compensates businesses and households for monitoring forest health and conserving trees rather than cutting them down.
The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) News have provided an update on the operation of the EU’s law to address illegal logging from March 2015 to March 2016. This issue outlines the support from the European Commission and the implementation of the regulations by its’ member states, indicating how they insure its’ proper application. Relevant publications and updates in international laws against illegal logging are also reported.
Endangered Forests in the Balance : the impact of logging reaches new heights in the Montagnes Blanches endangered Forest
The Montagnes Blanches endangered forest has become a focus area for conservation organisations due to threats on its unique features by illegal logging. According to satellite data provided from 2000-2013, almost 50% of the intact forest landscape has been lost or degraded. Furthermore the species, woodland cari-bou within this forest is now being identified as threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk 2.
China, which logs about 49.94 million cubic meters of natural forest each year, initiated a landmark pilot program to ban all commercial logging of natural forests in key forest zones in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province in April 2014. Now the country will implement a ban on commercial logging of State-owned natural forests by end 2016.
The article points out that over 50% of the timber China consumes and processes comes from imports much of it thought to be from illegally harvested sources. There is a concern that this domestic logging ban may lead to an increase in those illegally harvested sources.
Auditors say EU scheme to tackle $100bn global trade in illegal timber is poorly designed, badly managed and largely ineffective. Four EU countries – Greece, Spain, Hungary and Romania – have still not implemented an EU timber regulation proposed five years ago, allowing an easy passage to market for the fruits of deforestation. While on the supply side, part of the problem rests with a poor prioritisation of aid, the auditors say. Liberia received €11.9m to tackle illegal logging, when its yearly wood exports to the EU only averaged €5m.
Austrian timber company Schweighofer is linked to large-scale illegal logging which accounts for half of Romania's timber production. An EIA investigation finds that almost all the illegal timber ends up in the company's mills. Romania still has an estimated 218,000 hectares of old growth forests. A recent Romanian government study estimated that 80 million cubic meters of timber have been cut illegally in the past 20 years, representing a loss to the Romanian economy of over €5 billion. Following the report’s publication, WWF filed a complaint at the Federal Forest Office in Vienna for violations of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) and calls for a full investigation of the allegations against Schweighofer.
Environmental Investigation Agency, London-based, released a report saying that an alarming escalation of timber flowing into China has been there over the last three years. The majority of trees being cut down was driven by very wealthy Chinese people, who consider luxury products as a status symbol. 153 Chinese nationals were arrested for illegal logging in Myanmar, but were released in July after receiving a presidential pardon.
Regions along the porous Myanmar-China border have been a source of smuggled illegal timber to satisfy the growing demand from Chinese industry. Stripping natural resources in this way has prompted some resentment in Myanmar towards its more prosperous neighbour, and China has since protested at the harsh sentence. The border regions, which include Kachin state, have seen higher levels of conflict since 2011 between the Myanmar government and Kachin separatists. This escalation may provide sufficient cover for the illegal logging activity to take place.
Indonesia has long been accused of not managing forests in a sustainable manner and of failing to curb illegal logging and trade in regard to the export of forest-sourced products. The demand to implement sustainable forest management policies is getting stronger. The voluntary PEFC/IFCC (the Indonesia Forest Certification Co-Operation) certification has been seen as a “passport” for the companies to allow their products to entre countries that set sustainable forest management preconditions. Forestry companies’ policies need to be tested on the ground.
32 indigenous villagers in Cambodia’s north-eastern area, Stung Treng province, called on local forestry officials to crackdown on illegal saw mills and to provide them with protection after they received death threats from unsanctioned loggers of luxury timber. The 32 villagers are community activists, and they vowed to keep fighting illegal logging in their local area despite the threats. The environmental watchdog Global Witness said in a report in February that China’s voracious demand for luxury furniture is the driver behind the multimillion-dollar illegal trade in rosewood in Cambodia.
Despite government plans to eradicate illegal logging that have been in place over the past five years, encroachment on the country’s forests remains rampant, a recent report says. The report, released by a number of NGOs grouped under the Coalition against Forestry Mafia and the Washington-based Forest Trends, said that more than 30 percent of the timber used by the country’s industrial forest sector could be considered illegal. According to the report, while the source of this illegal wood was unclear, it was likely from trees harvested during the clear-cutting of natural forests from new oil, palm and pulp plantations. In order to meet the demands from the industrial forestry industry, the government had pledged to boost the number of industrial forestry plantations as the primary source of legal wood in Indonesia. The plantations produce fast-growing species of trees like acacia. However, the report found that the plantation sector was dramatically underperforming. In 2007, the forestry ministry predicted that by 2014, plantations would be producing at almost twice the rate reportedly achieved.