Illegal Logging: Timber!

Perhaps ten billion dollars worth of forest are illegally logged and sold each year. Governments are losing revenue and the world is losing a crucial natural resource. So why is so little money and effort going into controlling the crime?

The World Today Updated 23 October 2020 Published 1 April 2002 5 minute READ

Duncan Brack

Associate Fellow, Environment and Society Programme

Gavin Hayman

Associate Fellow, Sustainable Development Programme, Chatham House

The destruction of the world’s forests is a well known by-product of the development of modern society. Eighty percent of the forests that originally covered the Earth have been destroyed, fragmented or otherwise degraded by logging, mining, clearance for agriculture or urbanisation. Although increased public awareness, reafforestation initiatives and improvements in air pollution levels have helped forests to recover and grow in the developed world, most of the world’s forests are still in a small number of areas – the Amazon Basin, Central Africa, Southeast Asia and the Russian Federation – where they are significantly threatened. In the 1980s and early ’90s, for instance, Latin America lost more than half a percent of its natural forest each year.

Logging for wood products is responsible for about a third of global deforestation. And possibly more than half of all the logging in the vulnerable regions is conducted illegally.

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