Not all logging bans are created equal


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Over the last fifteen years, a number of Asian and Pacific countries completely or partially banned logging in natural forests. ’Forests Out of Bounds: Impacts and Effectiveness of Logging Bans in Natural Forests in Asia-Pacific,’ by Chris Brown, Patrick Durst, and Thomas Enters of the FAO, looks at the experience in China, New Zealand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. Several of these countries used logging bans successfully to conserve natural forests and obtain a larger portion of their wood supply from tree plantations and agroforestry; but some of the other countries largely failed.

New Zealand and Sri Lanka managed to replace natural forests with other sources of timber. New Zealand’s thriving forest plantations now produce large volumes of timber for export and less than 1% of the country’s annual wood production comes from natural forest. In Sri Lanka, by 1993 home gardens and coconut and rubber plantations were supplying 70% of all industrial roundwood. The remaining natural forests in the two countries are no longer threatened.

The Philippines and Thailand imposed logging bans after loggers and farmers had already depleted most of the commercial timber resources. Legal timber harvesting declined notably in the 1990s, partly due to the logging bans, but also because there was not much left to harvest. Thailand was more successful than the Philippines at curbing deforestation and illegal logging. Yet, forest clearing for agriculture continues in both countries and logging bans cannot solve that problem. Only a small portion of the two countries’ wood supply comes from plantations.

In 1998, China banned logging in 42 million hectares of forest and employed special police to enforce their policy. Government compensation programs provided assistance to large numbers of workers that lost their jobs in the process. Officials expect timber harvests from natural forest to decline from 32 million cubic meters in 1997 to 12 million cubic meters in 2003. The Chinese hope that in the medium-run their 34 million hectares of tree plantations will make up most of the difference. However, it is too soon to know whether they can pull it off.

Sometimes restricting logging in one country simply displaces the problem to other countries. China, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam all greatly increased their forest product imports after they restricted logging. This fueled illegal logging and destructive timber harvesting in neighboring countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, and Russia.

Its easy to ’just say no’ to logging. It is much more difficult to actually protect forests and develop sustainable alternative timber sources. Some countries are ready to make a real effort. Others just mouth the words.

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Further reading

To request a free electronic copy of the executive summary of this report, obtain information on how to obtain the full report or send comments to the authors, you can contact Patrick Durst at: