Facing lost revenues of some $5 billion annually as a result of illegal logging, governments are becoming increasingly innovative – and effective – in tackling the problem, according to a new United Nations report.
"By focusing on success stories it is really the first study of its kind to outline remedial actions instead of just dwelling on the problem of illegal logging," UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forest expert Eva Muller said.
Best Practices for Improving Law Compliance in the Forest Sector, a joint report of FAO and the UN-sponsored International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), highlights successful efforts to combat illegal logging in 11 countries: Bolivia, Cambodia, Cameroon, Ecuador, Honduras, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Peru.
Measures include the enrolment in Ecuador of independent professional foresters to ensure that operators are complying with laws and regulations, the promotion in Cambodia of a system in which local communities own and manage forests, helping to limit forest crime, and Gambia's streamlining of harvesting guidelines, making it easier for small-scale forest operators to comply with regulations and abide by the law.
Although it is too early to quantify the success of the highlighted measures, some are producing visible improvements, ITTO expert Steven Johnson said. "By sharing these successful case studies, ITTO and FAO hope to provide guidance to other countries wrestling with the problem of illicit logging," he added.
FAO's most recent Global Forest Resources Assessment found that while the world's rate of net forest loss is slowing, deforestation is still happening at an alarmingly high rate – about 13 million hectares per year. Most of that loss occurs as a result of forests being converted to agricultural land, but illegal logging plays a role too.
According to World Bank estimates, governments lose revenues totalling around $5 billion annually as a result of illegal logging; overall losses to national economies of timber producing countries add up to an additional $10 billion per year.
Beyond financial impacts, illegal logging also leads to unsustainable forest management, distorts timber markets and can exacerbate income disparities, note FAO and the ITTO.