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So, illegal logging fell in the last decade (reported by Chatham House and World Resource Institute).

By examining official government data, checking with local experts, and conducting various analyses, the authors—Sam Lawson of Chatham House and Larry MacFaul of the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre—conclude that illegal logging has fallen substantially, By extrapolating from these countries, Lawson and MacFaul arrived at an estimated 22% drop globally. "We're very confident about our conclusions in general terms," says Lawson.

The reasons for this are named by "Better law enforcement, improved forest monitoring and increased focus on the issue all contributed to these improvements".

This an interesting information brought to us by Chatham House whose report was commissioned and paid for by the U.K. Department for International Development, which has funded efforts to curb illegal logging through government reform. As we all know, Chatham House is always ready for shedding light on complex coherences in the global world of forests.

We always should give information like this a second glance. Let us summarize some facts regarding the issue of illegal logging:

  • Fact 1:

Chatham report mainly applies to tropical forests, so do I.

The International Tropical Timber Organization tracks the global trade of tropical timber. Everyone can access the published figures regarding production and consumption of tropical timber here

When carefully assessing the figures of ITTO you will realize a small but steady growth of tropical timber production as well as a growth of consumption in the last decade (with the exception of a small decrease in the short period of the world economic recession of 2008/2009).

Remark: Tropical timber production grew and illegal logging dropped in the same period

  • Fact 2:

EU, the US and Japan are the largest consumers of tropical timber globally.

The EU has started to think about combating illegal logging back in 2003. It took the EU six years to establish legal binding agreements in combating illegal logging. In November 2009 the Government of Ghana (Ghana) and the European Union (EU) have signed the world’s first Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement. A general due diligence procedure for importing timber into the EU is still not in place.

The US added some amendments to its Legacy Act aiming to cut down on illegal logging in June 2008.

Australia is currently in the process of development of legal rules on import of illegally logged timber, but there is no act in place.

Remark: The largest consumers of illegally logged timber did not have any legal tools in place to combat the import or the production of illegally logged timber within the report period of “global dropping rates of illegal logging”

  • Fact 3:

As we all know, illegal logging is directly linked to bribery, fraud and corruption. So, if illegal logging has dropped considerably in the last decade, bribery, fraud and corruption should have dropped as well. Did you ever read any evidence of that? Quite the contrary happened. Have a look at Transparency International’s website.

Remark: Illegal logging has dropped even there is no evidence that corruption in the related countries has dropped too.

You might find a long list of other facts which will not be in coincidence with the fact that illegal logging has dropped in the last decade.

Therefore I came to the conclusion, that something must be wrong with the general results of the report mentioned above. Considering all the facts above it sounds very implausible that illegal logging rates have dropped by the extent described in the report. 

Measuring illegal logging is extremely difficult. "I worry about the robustness of the numbers," says Nadine Laporte of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts. "The error bars are huge and they are not giving them."  

Besides this, defining “illegal logging” or identifying timber to be “legally” or to be “illegally” logged is in many cases impossible.

Where is the data of report coming from? “By examining official government data, checking with local experts, and conducting various analyses…”

Now we hit the gist of the matter. To get hard facts is very difficult. But in the last decade more and more scientific studies have been done in discovering the issues of illegal logging. Over time science came up with new information and with hard facts as well.

So, when talking about progress in combating of “illegal logging” by facts, two figures are necessary: the amount of illegal logging at the starting point (back at the beginning of the decade) and the current amount of illegal logging. Coming back to the statement of Nadine Laporte, we will compare figures with very different error bars. The confidence interval of the early figures is huge whilst the error bars of the recent figures are much smaller. It’s like comparing apples with oranges.

My conclusion of this is at the follows: the current amount of illegal logging which is based on more robust data can’t be compared to the amount of illegal logging which was just estimated back in the beginning of the decade.

Nobody, even not Chatham House is able to make a clear statement on the progress of illegal logging.

It might have dropped; it might have also raised; it might have also remained on constant level…

Considering all the facts mentioned above, I personally would have the feeling that the base estimates (at the beginning of the period) are way too high, current figures are more confident and therefore illegal logging has not dropped the last decade… (the drop published by the above mentioned report is nothing than based on unreliable data).

By the way, your should read this as well:  UP study on logging ban bared

There is another study about correlation of deforestation and logging...


There is no dramatic drop in illegal logging...


Blog | by Dr. Radut