Exposed: how loggers plunder the Amazon and get away with it

Posted by Richardg — 14 May 2014 at 5:54pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Daniel Beltra

For two years, Greenpeace has been investigating logging in the Brazilian Amazon. We found that criminals were ransacking the forest - and that the systems set up to stop them are being used to launder illegal timber.

Saying illegal logging is a pretty big problem is like calling the Amazon a pretty big river. In the Amazonian state of Pará, almost 80% of timber is believed to have been logged illegally.

That one state provides half of the Amazon timber that comes to Europe - and half of the timber Pará exports goes to Europe. So it's more than likely that illegal timber is making it's way to our shores.

The loggers have sophisticated scams to give their illegal timber a cover story. Buyers of Amazon timber get official-seeming paperwork to ease their consciences - but the rainforest pays the price.

We discovered that the builders merchant Jewson is selling decking made from Amazon timber.

It's supposed to work like this. To get permission to clear part of the forest, loggers have to submit a plan to the Brazilian government. This plan must include where they'll log, which trees they'll cut down and the exact location for each tree.

In return, the company is given logging credits for each tree they are allowed to cut down. Those credits follow the timber all the way from the forest to the company that sells the timber overseas.

Unfortunately, the system is broken - and it's being used to cover up illegal timber.

No one bothers to compare what the loggers say with the reality on the ground, so they make up any old nonsense and get away with it. This gives them extra credits that can be used to cover trees logged illegally elsewhere.

We found that it was commonplace for loggers to invent extra trees or claim less valuable trees were expensive ones like Ipe. Sometimes they claimed an area of forest that had already been trashed was full of valuable trees, then plundered other trees to make up the shortfall.

Others sought permission to log one area, then ransacked somewhere else entirely.

There are so many fake papers floating about - and no way to tell legal timber and illegal timber apart - yet Jewson is relying on this paperwork to justify selling Amazon timber.

We’ve reported Jewson to the UK government regulator. But if we kick off a big enough threat to their reputation as a responsible company, we could get them to stop selling dodgy wood in days, not months.

Tell Jewson to stop selling timber plundered from the Amazon.

Follow Greenpeace UK