So ok—let’s talk about illegal logging.
The logging trade in general, of course, is a booming industry, and there are ways in which trees can be cut down and harvested while keeping a close eye on the effects. Many systems within the logging business involve carefully choosing how many trees can be harvested from areas without too drastically or negatively affecting the ecosystem, often even repopulating the trees by planting saplings in the place of the trees that had just been cut. These systems also identify which types of trees can be harvested— avoiding the ones that are rare, endangered, or take 70 years to grow and reach their prime.
One of the biggest problems with illegal logging is that, well—no one is keeping track of it. By the simple fact that it is ILLEGAL (that is, happening under the radar) there’s no way to regulate how many trees are being cut down and sold, no way to step in and say ‘that’s way too many, you guys, you’re really messing with the way this rainforest is functioning as a unit.’ Not to mention the fact that illegal loggers are often cutting down trees that are endangered, rare, or that take almost half a century to re-grow back to the state in which they are functioning in their maximum capacity.
Now, to be perfectly honest, the legal ways of doing this are not perfect (and we will discuss this in much greater detail in future posts)—but at least with SOME degree of regulation, scientists and government agencies and other outside watchdog groups can keep a close eye on whether or not too many trees (or the wrong kind of trees) are being cut down.
There’s also the economics of it. If the market of logged trees is over-saturated with these black-market, poached trees, the value of the legally harvested trees goes down. That’s not good for anyone—the loggers who are trying to just do their job, the local and federal governments of the countries with these rainforests, the locals in these rainforest areas and the logging/wood industry in general.
According to World Resources Institute—
"A recent report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol, estimates that illegal activity accounts for 50 to 90 percent of all logging in these key areas – a criminal trade worth $30-100 billion annually worldwide."
But wait, there’s more! This quote comes from the Orangutan Foundation International, citing the 1998 G8 on forest management:
“Illegal logging robs national and subnational governments, forest owners and local communities of significant revenues and benefits, damages forest ecosystems, distorts timber markets and forest resource assessments and acts as a disincentive to sustainable forest management. International trade in illegally harvested timber including transfer pricing, under invoicing and other illegal practices, exacerbates the problem of illegal logging.The magnitude of illegal logging is significant. Research indicates that over 70 per cent of timber processed in Indonesia comes from illegal sources.”
Illegal logging is a big problem. And up until now, the systems in place for trying to stop/combat it have been pretty ineffective. There have been satellites that zoom in on the top-view of the rainforests, but the problem is that they have only been able to identify the areas being cut down AFTER they’d been cut down. At that point, the damage has been done—those trees are now logs, the rainforest is that much smaller, the ecosystem has been damaged, and the logging market is again filled with these poached trees lowering the value of all the other trees being exported.