The Rising Costs of Illegal Logging

September 2009

According to the World Resource Institute (WRI) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), illegal logging has risen to the top of the international forestry agenda over the past five to 10 years.1 Buyers should be concerned about practices such as wood harvested without appropriate permits, logging of protected species, violation of human rights, and corruption or fraud. To reduce the risk of purchasing illegally harvested forest products, buyers should identify regions of higher risk and develop appropriate controls.

Although there is deforestation in economically developed countries, the majority of deforestation and illegal logging occurs in less economically developed countries. Over half of the world’s net deforestation occurs in Brazil and Indonesia. Over half of Indonesia’s production is suspected of originating from illegally harvested wood. By ignoring local forest management regulations, illegal logging threatens the very value that forests bring to a community such as biodiversity, social welfare, and climate and economic stability.2

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Note: Size of bubbles represents volume of suspect roundwood, including imports

Source: Transparency International; WRI/SCA estimates of illegal logging (2004)


Illegal Logging, 8% to 10% of Global Wood Products

The value of the wood products trade in 2002 is estimated at $69 billion. This does not include pulp and paper production. Illegal logging represents an estimated 8% to 10% of the world’s wood products production and a similar percentage of global wood products trade.2 (Transparency International; WRI/SCA estimates of illegal logging)

Signs of Progress: The Lacey Act

The Lacey Act was amended under the United States 2008 Farm Bill banning U.S. interstate or foreign commerce in illegally sourced plants and plant products. The Lacey Act also phases-in a requirement that importers of plants and plant products provide a declaration with the country of origin of harvest, the species name of plants contained in their products, and their quantity and value.  Along with plants, the Lacey Act combats trafficking in “illegal” wildlife and fish as well. The 2008 Farm Bill became effective on May 22, 2008, and part of this bill was an amendment to the Lacey Act that expanded its protection to this broader range of plants and plant products.3 The Lacey Act has been used effectively in fighting illegal logging and other wildlife crime by banning the U.S. import of illegally sourced plants, including trees, and lumber products such as paper, furniture and flooring.4

Under the Lacey Act, as amended, ‘‘Plant’’ means: ‘‘Any wild member of the plant kingdom, including roots, seeds, parts or product thereof, and including trees from either natural or planted forest stands.” There are some exclusions including common cultivars (except trees) and common food crops from the definition of plant. In addition, a scientific specimen of plant genetic material that is to be used only for laboratory or field research and any plant that is to remain planted or to be planted or replanted is also excluded from the definition of plant, unless the plant is listed under the Endangered Species Act or a similar State law, or is listed in an appendix to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The Lacey Act can now be used as a mechanism to reduce illegal logging and global deforestation. Some organizations anticipate the Lacey Act will lead to federal mandates requiring that all forest products come from credible certified forest management systems.

1. Nogueron, Ruth, Lars Laestadius, and Joe Lawson. Sustainable Procurement of Wood and Paper-based Products. Publication no. 978-3-940388-18-6. WBCSD and WRI, 2008. (

2. Seneca Creek Associates and Wood Resources International. 2004. “Illegal” logging and global wood markets: The competitive impacts on the U.S. wood products industry. Assessment prepared for the American Forest and Paper Association.

3. United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Health Inspection Service. Lacey Act Amerndment: Implementation Questions and Answers. March 2009. (

4. Amendments to the Lacey Act from H.R.2419, § 8204 (2008) (–redlinedLaceyamndmnt–forests–may08.pdf)