Indonesia Tackles Illegal Logging

Feature story - October 5, 2004
In Indonesia, a country where more than two thirds of all logging is illegal, curbing illegal trade in timber is a formidable task. Indonesia recently rose to the challenge and took an important step when the Ministry of Forestry and the Ministry of Trade and Industry announced that they would ban the export of all sawn timber.

Proboscis monkeys jumping between trees in Indonesia

The decision followed reports of rampant smuggling of the timber to China. According to the ministry, Indonesia exported 336,000 cubic meters of sawn timber in 2002 to China. However, based on an official report from the Chinese authorities, the country imported 1.22 million cubic meters of the product from Indonesia.

Illegal logging and smuggling operations in Indonesia have been widespread for many years. The aggressive expansion of Indonesia's pulp and paper industries over the past decade has created an enormous level of demand for wood fiber that cannot be met by sustainable domestic forest management. The gap is filled by illegally cut wood which accounted for about 65 percent of the total supply in 2000.

Illegal logging is taking its toll on Indonesia's forests, part of the Paradise forests of Asia Pacific that stretch from mainland Asia to Australia. Indonesia is experiencing one of the highest rates of tropical forest loss in the world. Forty percent of the country's forests existing in 1950 have been cleared. Logging concessions cover more than half of Indonesia's total forest area. The region as a whole has seen a 25 percent increase in timber production in 1996 to 1998 compared to the previous decade.

Forest loss has dire implications for Indonesia's remarkable biodiversity. In addition to being one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, the country also has the world's longest list of threatened species. Man's fourth closest relative, the orangutan, is only one of the many endangered species at risk of extinction from habitat destruction.

Indonesia's ban on the export of sawn timber is a critical step toward fighting the illegal logging that threatens to destroy what's left of the tropical rainforest. There are important things the U.S. can do to support Indonesia's efforts.

How the U.S. Can Help

  • U.S. retailers must stop carrying products made from wood, such as ramin, that come from Indonesia's endangered tropical rainforests.
  • U.S. retailers must develop wood procurement policies that ensure that all their wood products originate from ecologically and socially sustainable logging operations certified by an independent company affliated with the Forest Stewardship Council.
  • The U.S. should support Indonesia's call for international assistance to halt illegal logging and deforestation.

What You Can Do

Buy FSC certified wood. The FSC label guarantees that wood products have been independently certified as coming from an ecologically and socially sustainable logging operation.

View the Paradise forests slideshow with images by award-winning photographer Takeshi Mizukoshi.

More Information

Feature Story: Walking all over Indonesia: EU Commission still using illegally traded timber

Map of the Paradise forests.

Copyright 2002 Greenpeace/Global Forest Watch

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