Curbing Illegal Trafficking in Timber and Other Plant Products

Vol. 43 No. 2

Elinor Colbourn is an assistant chief in the Environmental Crimes Section and Thomas W. Swegle is a senior counsel in the Law and Policy Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of the Department of Justice or any other agency.

There is international consensus on few things, but the need to curb illegal logging is one of them. Illegal logging destroys forests, watersheds, and habitats and negatively impacts biodiversity, agriculture, fisheries, and global climate change. The scope of illegal logging worldwide is enormous. The World Bank estimated in 2006 that timber harvested illegally on public lands worldwide results in lost assets and revenue in excess of $10 billion dollars annually in developing countries. See Strengthening Forest Law Enforcement and Governance, Report No. 36638-GLB (2006). This illicit trade hurts both those in developing and developed countries. Money that could otherwise be used in developing countries to meet the basic needs of their people, better manage their forests and other natural resources, and reduce their international debt is diverted by such trade. The trade in lower-priced illegal timber and the products made from it also injures those in developed countries, such as American wood products companies that operate legally and, therefore, pay full price for imported timber.

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