Combatting illegal logging

January 03, 2018

Combatting illegal logging

The Lacey Act is a United States law originally passed in 1900 that bans trafficking in illegal wildlife. In 2008, the Act was amended to include plants and plant products such as wood and paper. This was the world’s first ban on trade in illegally harvested and traded wood products, but it has been followed by similar legislation in the European Union, Japan and Australia.

Illegal logging is a major problem in parts of the developing world that still have large areas of forest and where law enforcement and governance is weak, including Latin America, SE Asia, Africa and the Russian Far East. Illegal logging’s environmental impacts include the loss of habitats and biodiversity: it is threatening the survival of some of the world’s most endangered primates including orangutans in Indonesia and the Siberian tiger. Illegal logging is also linked to deforestation which in turn has implications for climate change. Illegal logging in just nine forest producer countries is estimated to have released 210 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2013.

Galleher is committed to strict adherence to Lacey Act provisions governing the importation, purchase, or sale of legal wood and has dedicated staff responsible for implementing our Lacey Act policy and procedures. This entails continuous and thorough efforts to exercise “due care” by:

  • Gathering and maintaining up-to-date information on all of the wood species used in our flooring and their countries of origin
  • Assessing the risk that the wood may have been illegally logged or traded
  • Mitigating risk through a variety of means, for example:
    • Requiring that suppliers of products from high-risk regions themselves adopt Lacey Compliance policies and procedures;
    • Asking that wood products from high-risk regions be independently certified as legal and sustainable;
    • Gathering documentation that provides evidence of legality, such as harvest and transportation permits;
    • Performing on-site supplier audits;
    • Testing high-risk woods to verify that they come from the sources claimed by our suppliers

Expanding on this last point, a wide range of laboratory technologies are being adapted for identification of species and geographic origin for timber products. One of the most promising for determining the origin of a wood product is stable isotope analysis which compares the ratios of common elements within timber samples to verify the harvest origin. Many common elements, such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen occur naturally in different forms, known as isotopes. These are absorbed and incorporated into the molecular structure of timber as trees grow from the soil, water and air. Isotopic analysis involves measuring natural variations in the ratio of these isotopes.

While stable isotope analysis has relatively recently been applied to timber, it has been used for years to identify the provenance of eggs, wine, beef, caviar, fish and other products of the food industry. As verifying the origin of harvest is key in concluding low risk for some supply chains, isotope analysis is an extremely useful assessment tool.

Galleher has begun doing isotopic testing of samples of the European Oak used in our Monarch Plank and Reward product lines. Euro Oak can be very low or high risk depending on the country where it is harvested. In general, countries in eastern Europe such as France and Germany have strong laws and effective enforcement, while the incidence of illegal logging is much higher in eastern European countries like Romania and Russia. But it is difficult or impossible to visually distinguish Oak from western and eastern Europe. Galleher insists that all of our European Oak comes from western Europe, but we perform random isotopic testing to keep our suppliers honest.

It’s because of efforts like these that Galleher is recognized as being an industry leader in Lacey compliance.

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