Illegal timber from the Brazilian Amazon sold all over the world

by Daniel Brindis

May 15, 2014

Trucks loaded with timber await the repair of a ferry used to cross the Curuá-Una river, close to Santarém, Pará State.

© Marizilda Cruppe / Greenpeace

Amazon timber is all over the U.S. You can find it in hardwood flooring at national retailers like Lumber Liquidators and in walkways at landmarks like Atlantic City, Miami Beach, and the Brooklyn Bridge. Much of this wood comes from ParState, Brazils largest timber producer and exporter.It is estimated that 78% of the timber logged in Paris taken illegally.

Just last month, I joined my Brazilian colleagues in ParState to do some field research, speak with locals, and fly over some of the most threatened areas in the Amazon.

The scale of the problem in the Brazilian Amazon is incredible. We witnessed logging trucks racing along dirt roads to remove trees for sawmills. And we spoke with many locals who confirmed that criminals throughout the state continue to buy and sell illegal timber with impunity.

Controlling illegal logging is fundamental to saving the Amazon. Predatory logging sets the stage for deforestation in remote areas of the forest and threatens protected areas, including biological reserves and indigenous lands.Predatory logging threatens communities who depend upon and live in the forest. And it endangers animals like the jaguar. Meanwhile, it releases heavy amounts of climate pollution. Deforestation and forest degradation via logging is amongst the greatest contributors to climate change.

Barges loaded with timber in the tropical rainforest of Para state.

Barges loaded with timber in the tropical rainforest of Par state.

Loggers particularly focus on the most valuable tree species like Ipe, which some have described as the next Mahogany.Ipe is very rare and fickle in terms of the conditions required for it to grow. A recent study concluded that it may be logged into extinction if things don’t change.

Greenpeaces recent investigationhasdocumented the pervasive fraud and then tracked the fraud from tree to tabletop. Our team outlined common scams such as overestimating the number of valuable species in forests, falsifying information for chain of custody documents, and applying for logging permits in areas already deforested, all in order to sell timber of illegal origins with official documents. Criminals are easily able to generate the official documentation fraudulently and then use the documents to launder illegal wood.

The documentation is legal but the timber isnt. I often compare it to a teenager using his older brothers ID to buy alcohol.

Importers of Amazon timber in the U.S. are part of the problem. Lumber Liquidators provides a striking example. One of the companys suppliers, Pampa Exportacoes is connected to our case studies of forest crime and has been fined over 1 million USD in environmental fines. Furthermore, its sawmill suppliers have been fined roughly 79 million USD in environmental fines within the past five years. Finding that Lumber Liquidators is sourcing from tainted sources was not too surprising considering that Lumber Liquidators is already under investigation for importing illegal timber through Chinese factory suppliers in violation of the Lacey Act.

You can send a message yourself to Lumber Liquidators to tell them to cut ties with Forest Criminals here.


Daniel Brindis

By Daniel Brindis

Daniel is the Forests Campaign Director, based in San Francisco. His portfolio includes the Amazon, the Canadian Boreal, and environmental certification schemes like the Forest Stewardship Council. He splits his time between the San Francisco and Manaus offices.

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