Illegal Logging

"We are flying low in helicopter formation over the Brazilian Amazon with agents from Ibama - the state-funded institute responsible for environmental protection.

No country has done more than Brazil in recent years to tackle the previously rampant levels of deforestation but there is a good reason the agents have their guns drawn - we have seen statistics which show that rates of Amazon destruction are again on the rise.

There are big profits to be made from illegal logging and the fraudulent clearing of rainforest for valuable cash crops and these helicopter patrols are often shot at.

Trying to locate illegal logging operations in the midst of this dense jungle from the air is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack."

— Wyre Davies. BBC News.

Illegal Logging

Cheap hardwood and illegal logging go hand in hand

The least expensive way to obtain South American hardwood is to poach it illegally from the forest with no view to the future.

Sadly, ipe (pronounced “ee-pay”), one of the most common and useful South American hardwood used in exterior applications in recent years, is now becoming increasingly scarce and expensive due to uncontrolled (and often illegal) logging.

Illegal logging occurs all over the world – not just in the South America but also in places like the Russian Far East  – and is typically defined as extraction of trees in contravention of any state, foreign, or tribal law. Examples include timber theft, logging in a national park or protected area, or cutting trees without proper authorization from relevant agencies.

According to the international police organization Interpol, the illegal logging trade could be worth as much as $100 billion worldwide. It has also been linked to a rise in murders and corruption, as criminal groups move into remote forest areas. (source: BBC, February 2013).

Estimated rates of illegal logging for many major producers of South American hardwood are quite high

Country Estimates of Illegal Harvest *
Brazil 35 – 72%
Bolivia 50 - 80%
Cameroon 22 – 35%
Ghana 59 – 65%
Indonesia 40 – 61%
Malaysia 14 – 25%

* Sources: Chatham House 2010, CBI Policy Intelligence – FLEGT 2012, FAO 2012

Producing timber responsibly and legally carries necessary costs

  • responsible forest management plans

    must be developed and implemented
  • permits

    usually have to be obtained and taxes and duties paid
  • the cost of third-party certification and audits

    also must be borne if consumers are to be provided an independent assurance that the forest is being managed as it should be

Illegal logging avoids all of these costs –at lasting cost to people and the environment. When illegally-logged wood is mixed with legal wood in manufacturing or distribution, it becomes impossible to tell the two apart – but the cost, and therefore the price, of all the wood tends to come down.

When you shop for the least expensive hardwood decking, you may be inadvertently supporting illegal logging. It’s worth it to pay a fair price for certified, responsibly-harvested hardwood.

Together, we can cover the costs of managing tropical forests responsibly so they will be here today, tomorrow – and always.

  • for biodiversity

    half of Earth’s land-based species inhabit rainforests
  • for climatic stability

    rainforests are the “lungs of the world” and sequester enormous amounts of carbon
  • for the well-being of the people who live there

    responsible forestry can provide local people with livelihoods AND a healthy environment