Report Says Tropical Timber is Better Protected, Not Safe
LONDON Developing nations have got far better at protecting rain forests over the past two decades but are a long way short of doing enough to save the crucial global resource, a new report said on Thursday.
While the area of tropical timber under sustainable management has surged to 36 million hectares from less than one million in 1988, that represents less than 5 percent of all tropical forests, the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) said.
Rain forest under sustainable management is roughly the size of Germany, but an area a third of that magnitude is being cleared each year for timber or crops, the ITTO said in a report that took four years to compile.
"This report says much has been done but much more needs to be done. It is good news but it is very fragile," co-author Duncan Poore said. "It is a starting point. It shows where things ought to go. But there is no knowing if they will."
Poore praised Malaysia for its long-standing legal framework for managing forests in a sustainable way and said Bolivia, Peru, Congo Republic, Gabon and Ghana had made good progress.
But he said there was a large discrepancy between management plans and management practice that sometimes allowed illegal logging to lay waste large areas of pristine forest.
"There has been a huge increase in the amount of illegal logging -- which undermines the price of timber that is legally and sustainably logged," Poore told Reuters in an interview.
The Japan-based ITTO, the world's main international agency tasked with ensuring the sustainable management, use of and trade in tropical timber, said its report was the most thorough ever undertaken.
The report, "Status of Tropical Forest Management 2005", called for all nations with tropical forests to table plans for sustainable management, then implement and police them.
It said while there were plans in place for managing 96 million hectares, or one quarter of the 353 million hectares designated as production forests, only about 7 percent of this was actually being managed in a sustainable way.
ITTO said while nations in Asia and the Pacific had plans to manage 55 million hectares of tropical timber in a sustainable way, only 14.3 million hectares were actively managed.
In Africa, plans to manage 10 million hectares had turned into just 4.3 million in practice, while in Latin America and the Caribbean it was 31 million hectares against 6.5 million.
"The only way to get proper policing is to persuade governments that their forests are worth protecting," Poore said. "They must make forests managed sustainably for timber worth more than clearing them for crops."
"Targeted aid could be used to that end. The key is to make sustainably logged timber financially competitive with alternatives and to stamp down on illegal practices."