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Illegal logging

Illegal logging is the harvest, transportation, purchase or sale of timber in violation of laws. The harvesting procedure itself may be illegal, including using corrupt means to gain access to forests; extraction without permission or from a protected area; the cutting of protected species; or the extraction of timber in excess of agreed limits (see Box 1).

Illegalities may also occur during transport, such as illegal processing and export; fraudulent declaration to customs; the avoidance of taxes and other charges, and fraudulent certification.[1]


  • Overview 1
    • Scale 1.1
    • Consequences 1.2
  • Statistics on illegal logging 2
  • Political processes 3
    • East Asia 3.1
    • European Union 3.2
    • Africa 3.3
    • Saint Petersburg Declaration 3.4
    • United States 3.5
    • Australia 3.6
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Box 1. Logging in national parks: the case of Korindo (Indonesia)
In March 2004, Greenpeace carried out actions against a cargo ship transporting timber from the Indonesian company Korindo, which was being imported into France, UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Korindo is known to be using illegal timber from the last rainforests of Indonesia. In May 2003, an Indonesian Government investigation confirmed that Korindo was receiving illegal timber from notorious timber barons known to obtain timber from an orang-utan refuge – the Tanjung Puting National Park.[2][3] Tanjung Puting National Park is a 4,000 square kilometre conservation area of global importance. It is recognised as a world biosphere reserve by the United Nations and forms the largest protected area of swamp forest in South-East Asia.

Illegal logging is a pervasive problem, causing enormous damage to forests, local communities and to the economies of producer countries. Despite the economic importance of trade in timber and forest products, major international timber consumer countries, such as the EU, have no legal means to halt the import of illegally sourced forest products,[4] because the identification of illegally logged or traded timber is technically difficult. Therefore, a legal basis for normative acts against timber imports or other products manufactured out of illegal wood is missing. Scientific methods to pinpoint the geographic origin of timber are currently under development.[5] Possible actions to restrict imports cannot meet with WTO regulations of non-discrimination. They must instead be arranged in bilateral agreements. TRAFFIC,[6] the wildlife trade monitoring network strives to monitor the illegal trade of timber and provide expertise in policy and legal reviews.[7]


It is estimated that illegal logging in public lands alone causes losses in assets and revenue in excess of 10 billion USD annually.[8] Although exact figures are difficult to state, given the illegal nature of the activity, decant estimates show that most of the logging, more than half, that is done in the world is illegal most especially in open and vulnerable areas – the Amazon Basin,[9] Central Africa, Southeast Asia, the Russian Federation – is illegal.[10]

Available figures and estimations must be dealt with cautiously. Governments may tend to underestimate the situation. High estimates of illegal logging may constitute an embarrassment as these hint at ineffective enforcement of legislation or, even worse, bribery and corruption. On the other hand, environmental NGOs publish alarming figures to raise awareness and to emphasise the need for stricter conservation measures. For companies of the forest sector, publications providing high estimations can be regarded as potentially threatening for their reputation and their market perspective, including the competitiveness of wood in comparison to other materials. However, for many countries, NGOs are the only source of information apart from state institutions that probably clearly underestimate the situation. For example, the Republic of Estonia calculated an amount of 1% illegally harvested timber in 2003, whereas it is estimated to reach a maximum of 50% by the ENGO "Estonian Green Movement".[11] In Latvia, the situation is comparable; anecdotal evidence points towards 25%[12] of logging being illegal.


Illegal logging continues in Thailand. This photograph was taken from the roadside in Mae Wang District, Chiang Mai Province, in March 2011

Illegal logging contributes to deforestation and by extension global warming, causes loss of biodiversity and undermines the rule of law. These illegal activities undermine responsible forest management, encourage corruption and tax evasion and reduce the income of the producer countries, further limiting the resources producer countries can invest in sustainable development. Illegal logging has serious economic and social implications for the poor and disadvantaged with millions of dollars worth of timber revenue being lost each year.[13]

Furthermore, the illegal trade of forest resources undermines international security, and is frequently associated with corruption, money laundering, organized crime, human rights abuses and, in some cases, violent conflict. In the forestry sector, cheap imports of illegal timber and forest products, together with the non-compliance of some economic players with basic social and environmental standards, destabilise international markets. This unfair competition affects those European companies, especially the small and medium-sized companies that are behaving responsibly and ready to play by fair rules.

Statistics on illegal logging

Box 2. Loss of revenue to governments of producer countries
The scale of illegal logging represents a major loss of revenue to many countries and can lead to widespread associated environmental damage. A senate committee in the Philippines estimated that the country lost as much as US$1.8bn per year during the 1980s.[14] The Indonesian government estimated in 2002 that costs related to illegal logging are US$3bn each year.[15] The World Bank[16] estimates that illegal logging costs timber-producing countries between 10 and 15 billion euros per year. This compares with 10 billion euros disbursed as EC aid in 2002.[17]
  • A joint UK-Indonesian study of the timber industry in Indonesia in 1998 suggested that about 40% of throughput was illegal, with a value in excess of $365 million.[18] More recent estimates, comparing legal harvesting against known domestic consumption plus exports, suggest that 88% of logging in the country is illegal in some way.[3] Malaysia is the key transit country for illegal wood products from Indonesia.[19]
  • In Brazil, 80% of logging in the Amazon violates government controls.[20] At the core of illegal logging is widespread corruption. Often referred to as ‘green gold’, mahogany can fetch over US$1,600 m-3. Illegal mahogany opens the door for illegal logging of other species, and for widespread exploitation of the Brazilian Amazon. Recent Greenpeace investigations in the Brazilian state of Pará reveal just how deeply rooted the problem remains. No reliable legal chain of custody exists for mahogany, and the key players in its trade are ruthless.[21]
  • The World Bank estimates that 80% of logging operations are illegal in Bolivia and 42% in Colombia,[22] 10 while in Peru, illegal logging equals 80% of all activities.[23]
  • Research carried out by WWF International[24] in 2002 shows that in Africa, rates of illegal logging vary from 50% for Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea to 70% in Gabon and 80% in Liberia – where revenues from the timber industry also fuelled the civil war.
  • WWF estimates that illegal logging in Russia is at least 20%, reaching up to 50% in its far eastern regions.[25]
  • Between 50% and 90% of logging from the key countries in these regions is being carried out by organised criminal entities.[27]

Political processes

East Asia

Signs of illegal timber poaching on the boundary of the protected area around the Cagua Volcano.

The East Asia Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) Ministerial Conference took place in World Bank and the Government of Indonesia.

The meeting included detailed technical discussions of forest law enforcement in relation to governance, forest policy and forest management as well as ministerial engagement.

The Conference's primary aims were to share analysis on forest law enforcement; explore priority issues of forest law enforcement, including illegal logging in the East Asia region, among senior officials from forest and related ministries, NGOs and industry representatives; and commit to action at the national and regional level.

European Union

In May 2003 the European Commission presented the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. This marked the beginning of a long process by which the EU aims to develop and implement measures to address illegal logging and related trade. The primary means of implementing the Plan is through Voluntary Partnership Agreements with timber producing countries. The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which went into effect 3 March 2013, was adopted in 2010.[28]

  • It prohibits the placing on the EU market for the first time of illegally harvested timber and products derived from such timber;[28]
  • It requires EU traders who place timber products on the EU market for the first time to exercise 'due diligence';[28]
  • Once on the market, the timber and timber products may be sold on and/or transformed before they reach the final consumer.[28]
  • To facilitate the traceability of timber products economic operators in this part of the supply chain (referred to as traders in the regulation) have an obligation to keep records of their suppliers and customers.[28]

A Greenpeace investigation published in May 2014 demonstrates that EU Timber Regulation is ineffective if fraudulent paperwork is accepted at face value and there is not sufficient enforcement by EU authorities.[9]


The Africa Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (AFLEG) Ministerial Conference was held in Yaoundé, Cameroon in October 2003. The meeting drew together ministers and stakeholders from Africa, Europe and North America to consider how partnerships between producers, consumers, donors, civil society and the private sector could address illegal forest exploitation and associated trade in Africa.

The AFLEG conference, the second regional forest law enforcement and governance meeting after East Asia, resulted in endorsement of a ministerial declaration and action plan as well as a variety of informal implementation initiatives.

In 2014, the EU-FAO Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Programme[29] of the

  • Illegal logging in Yunnan (Greenpeace China)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Lacey Act Guidance
  • Illegal logging in Central America
  • Paper on Indonesian Illegal Logging
  • Facing Reality: How to halt the import of illegal timber in the EU (2004)
  • Controlling imports of illegal timber: Options for Europe (2002)
  • The EU Action Plan on FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade)
  • Logging Off: Online Resource for Information on FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements, FERN
  • FERN Illegal Logging Campaign
  • Independent Forest Monitoring - Global Witness
  • Sommerauer, Markus. n.d. "A short reflection on EU FLEGT program," ForestIndustries.EU
European Union
  • EU FLEGT profile on database of market governance mechanisms
  • siteillegal logging infoThe
  • Forest Legality Alliance
  • Environmental Investigation Agency: News & Investigations into Illegal Logging - reports etc.
  • EIA in the USA: Reports etc.
  • DNA test could halt illegal logging (video) – BBC News
  • Illegal Logging data and statistics - Havocscope Black Markets
  • CIFOR site on illegal logging
  • Monograph on policy options to reduce illegal logging
  • Monograph on certification and illegal logging

External links

Further reading

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ With the exception of CITES which is only partly applicable.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ For further details on illegal logging, see: Duncan Brack and Gavin Hayman (2001) Intergovernmental Actions on Illegal Logging. Royal Institute of International Affairs; Duncan Brack, Gavin Hayman and Kevin Gray (2002) Controlling the International Trade in Illegally Logged Timber and Wood Products. Royal Institute of International Affairs.
  11. ^ Estonian Green Movement (2004) Illegal forestry and Estonian timber exports
  12. ^ WWF Latvia (2003) The features of illegal logging and related trade in Baltic Sea region; WWF International (2002) The Timber Footprint of the G8 and China
  13. ^
  14. ^ Debra Callister (1992) Illegal tropical timber trade: Asia Pacific. TRAFFIC International
  15. ^ ICG (2001) Natural Resources and Law Enforcement in Indonesia
  16. ^ World Bank (2002) Revised Forest Strategy’’
  17. ^ Annual report 2003 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the EC Development Policy and the implementation of External Assistance in 2002
  18. ^ Indonesia-UK Tropical Forestry Management Programme (1999) Illegal Logging in Indonesia. ITFMP Report No. EC/99/03
  19. ^ Environmental Investigation Agency and Telapak (2004) Profiting from Plunder: How Malaysia Smuggles Endangered Wood.
  20. ^ WWF International (2002) The Timber Footprint of the G8 and China
  21. ^ Greenpeace (2001) Partners in Mahogany Crime: Amazon at the mercy of gentlemen’s agreements.
  22. ^ World Bank (2004) Forest Law Enforcement
  23. ^ The Peruvian Environmental Law Society (2003) Case Study on the Development and Implementation of Guidelines for the Control of Illegal Logging with a view to Sustainable Forest Management in Peru.
  24. ^ WWF International (2002) The Timber Footprint of the G8 and China.
  25. ^ WWF press release, 30 March 2004.
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b c d e
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^


See also

The Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Regulation applies to importers into Australia of "regulated timber products" such as sawn timber, wood panels, pulp, paper products, and wood furniture. The Regulation starts on 30 November 2014 and requires that before import of these products or processing of raw logs, due diligence is undertaken to minimise the risk that the timber products or raw logs were illegally logged or incorporate illegally logged timber.[36]

The Timber Development Association (TDA) welcomes on June 6, 2014's release by the Australian Department of Agriculture of a position paper on the Illegal Logging Prohibition Regulation and guidance on how timber and wood products industry can comply on the Australian Government - Department of Agriculture[34] official website. The release of the Government's guidance coincides with the release of industry developed timber due diligence tools and information through the industry website of Timber Due Diligence.[35]


This Plant and Plant Product Declaration must contain (among other things) the Genus, Species, and Country of Harvest of every plant found in commercial shipments of certain products, a list of applicable products (along with other requirements and guidance) can be found on the USDA APHIS website.[33]

The requirements under the new Amendments are two-fold. First, the Lacey Act now makes it illegal to import into the United States plants that have been harvested contrary to any applicable Federal Law, State Law, Indian Tribal Law, or Foreign Law. If a plant is found to have been harvested in violation of the laws of the country where it was harvested, that plant would be subject to seizure and forfeiture if imported into the U.S. The Lacey Act also makes it unlawful, beginning December 15, 2008, to import certain plants and plant products without a Plant and Plant Product import declaration.[33]

In response to growing concerns over illegal logging and advice from TRAFFIC[6] and other organisations,[7] on May 22, 2008 the U.S. amended the Lacey Act, when the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 expanded its protection to a broader range of plants and plant products (Section 8204. Prevention of Illegal Logging Practices).[32]

United States

The conference took place as the United Kingdom prepared to pass the G8 Presidency to Russia. As Valery Roshchupkin, Head of the Federal Forestry Agency of the Russian Federation, confirmed, illegal logging would be of special importance for Russia as the G8 President and for the following G8 Summit, also held in Saint Petersburg.

The Saint Petersburg conference brought together nearly 300 participants representing 43 governments, the private sector, civil society and international organisations. It agreed to the Saint Petersburg Declaration on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance in Europe and North Asia. The Declaration includes an indicative list of actions, intended to serve as a general framework for possible actions to be undertaken by governments as well as civil society.

The Europe and North Asia Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (ENA FLEG) Ministerial Conference was held in Saint Petersburg, Russia on 22–25 November 2005. In May 2004, the Russian Federation announced its intention to host the ENA FLEG process, supported by the World Bank. A preparatory conference was held in Moscow in June 2005.

Saint Petersburg Declaration

. European Commission and the [31] to document and foster strategic reflection in partner countries already engaged in negotiating a VPA - or those who will be entering into such negotiations - by providing examples of good practices. These good practices were identified and recorded following interviews with the main stakeholders in the eight VPA countries in West and Central Africa, the European Forest Institute’s (EFI) EU FLEGT Facility[30]

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