PDF _ RL33932 - Illegal Logging: Background and Issues
9-Jun-2008; Pervaze A. Sheikh; 15 p.

Update: Previous Releases:
March 19, 2007

Abstract: Illegal logging is a pervasive problem throughout the world, affecting countries that produce, export, and import wood and wood products. Illegal logging is generally defined as the harvest, transport, purchase, or sale of timber in violation of national laws. In some timber-producing countries in the developing world, illegal logging represents over half of timber production and exports. The World Bank estimates that illegal logging costs governments approximately $15 billion annually in lost royalties. Illegal logging may stimulate corruption, collusion, and other crimes within governments, and has been linked to the purchase of weapons in regional conflicts in Africa. Illegal logging, however, benefits perpetrators by reducing the cost of legal and regulatory compliance of timber harvesting, sometimes resulting in higher profits. Illegal logging in protected areas can lead to degraded forest ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, and indirectly to deforestation and the spread of agrarian activity in some developing countries.

Several relevant multilateral and international agreements address illegal logging and illegal timber trade. These range from voluntary agreements that, for example, allow consumer countries to exchange data with producing countries, to legally binding multilateral agreements that enable signatory governments to seize illegal products and exercise financial and criminal penalties on those who possess or transport illegally produced timber.

The United States is the world’s largest wood products consumer and one of the top importers of tropical hardwoods. Some are concerned that U.S. demand for tropical timber from countries in Latin America and Southeast Asia may be a driver of illegal logging. Others assert that if there were no illegally logged wood in the global market, the value of U.S. exports of timber could increase substantially. The United States has no specific domestic laws that address all aspects of illegal logging. Logging within the United States is addressed by several laws and regulations — some federal, but many state — that depend on what species is logged, and where and how it is done.

In 2003, the United States developed an initiative to help developing countries stop illegal logging. This initiative aims to remove legal and institutional barriers to combating illegal logging; promote technology to improve monitoring the legal trade in logging; and create incentives to abolish illegal logging practices in rural communities. The United States also addressed illegal logging in a free trade agreement (FTA) with Peru. The agreement requires that the Peruvian government enforce its international treaty obligations and increase monitoring and enforcement of illegal logging in its country.

Illegal logging is addressed by Congress in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-234). A provision in the law amends the Lacey Act to include plants traded in violation of foreign laws. This was primarily intended to deter imports of illegally obtained timber from foreign countries.

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Topics: Forests, Natural Resources, Information

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