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  • Archive for October, 2013

    Russian forests destroyed by illegal logging, report finds

    2013 - 10.21

    The last remaining hardwood forests in the far east of Russia are being destroyed by Chinese sawmills and their western customers, a new report has argued.

    The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has revealed that the vast majority – up to 80 per cent – of the hardwood which is harvested from forests in the far east of Russia, is from illegal logging sources.

    One of the major retailers to be accused of such practices is Lumber Liquidators, which is the biggest hardwood flooring retailer in America. The firm has been accused of relying on Chinese suppliers that are allegedly guilty of trading in predominately illegally logged Russian oak.

    Lumber Liquidators told the press that it believed there were “numerous inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims,” reported the Financial Times. “We support the protection of the environment and responsible forest management, and if we find that any of the company’s suppliers are not adhering to our standards, we will discontinue sourcing from those suppliers,” the newspaper reported the firm as saying in an emailed statement.

    Previously, the US Government carried out an investigation into the firm’s wood imports – and this is now tipped to become a new ‘test case’ for seeing whether illegal logging can be clamped down on by tracking sellers in developed markets.

    Alexander von Bismarck, EIA’s executive director, told the newspaper that the US and the EU both had rules which ensured that the responsibility for ensuring wood had come from a genuine source rested with their domestic companies. “We’re now in the international community at a tipping point where we have the means to intervene,” he said.

    However, outside of this expectation, illegal logging in places including Siberia has risen sharply, as a result of skyrocketing international demand for hardwood, as well as some corruption within the Russian forestry services. Earlier this year, the Russian Government confirmed that it had exposed a criminal network that had exported illegal logs worth more than $60 million over the last three years.

    Russia’s huge areas of forest rival those in the Amazon and, as increasingly strict rules now govern logging in China, the demand for imports from Russia has risen. With numbers of Chinese-owned sawmills being created in Russia, many of which are reliant on illegally-logged wood, the issue of deforestation remains a serious one. Companies such as Greenwood Management are already doing their bit to stamp out the scourge of illegal logging, but we must all work together to ensure the protection of our forests for generations to come.