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Illegal Logging in Russia

April 29, 2013

Any regular follower of this blog knows I’m very interested in illegal fishing.  Increasingly, I’ve become interested in illegal logging as well.  I believe there may be lessons to be learned from other natural resources crime, perhaps most of all from illegal logging.  It seems to be there may be a lot of similar problems and solutions when we consider illegal fishing of immobile resources such as conch and abalone.

Given this, I’d like to share some interesting findings from WWF-Russia. They just released a report on illegal logging in Russia.

Here are two bits that intrigued me.

1. Negligence or criminal participation of forest rangers. Evidence suggests that forest rangers regularly either under-detect or under-report illegal logging.  For example, a case study of the Roschinskoe Forest Management Unit in Primorsky Province, WWF found reports of illegal logging greatly increased when the NGO sent specialists to accompany the rangers.

Detection Rates

2. Courts rarely prosecute offenders.  I’ll quote here:

For instance, specialists of the Primorsky Krai Forest Management Agency registered 691 cases of illegal logging in 2011.

But of the violations registered in 2011 only 16% made it to a trial, the lowest figure in the past 10 years. The picture in individual regions is even more alarming – in Dalnerechensk County (long a center for illegal logging) only 6 % of the registered cases made it to trial. These figures are especially poor considering that in half of the cases the identity of the perpetrator had been determined.

In the rare cases of prosecution, punishment is given almost exclusively to small-scale violators. 66 % of sentences for illegal logging are carried out against perpetrators who harvested less than 10 m3 of timber, and only 8 % of sentences involve violations that exceed the average volume of an illegal harvest in the Far East – 90 m3.  To the knowledge of WWF, only a single case of large-scale illegal logging (greater than 1000 m3) has ever been tried in Primorsky Province despite the regular registration of such crimes.

 

These problems are pretty common to illegal fishing as well. Detection is hard and courts rarely prosecute. The recommendations in the report are very similar to what we see recommended for illegal fishing: improved law enforcement, international cooperation, and eco-labels with secure chains of custody.  I’ll keep an eye on the illegal logging issue to see if we don’t find some innovative solutions as well.

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