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Plantation in Australia
When you consider just how much wood is used in the construction of furniture, it should not be surprising that many of the items you have in your home come from illegally harvested trees. Although steps have been taken to curb the practice of illegally harvesting trees over the years, the demand for wood products is such that many countries are currently experiencing environmental impacts from the de-forestation of their trees.
Thanks to higher demand and international shipping, many of the wood for furniture products come from many places around the world. Russia, Indonesia and Eastern Europe are prime sources for wood and they are also subject to illegal harvesting as well.
The Illegal Harvesting of Trees
With Eastern Europe and Russia are two of the most prominent sources for the illegal harvesting of tress with widespread abuse happening on a daily basis, you’ll find many common items in and around your home may have wood that was harvested illegally.
For example, many garden fences are made from larch trees that are relatively rare in Russia and is supposed to be protected. Yet, nearly half of all larch trees harvested in the far eastern sections of the country are done illegally. Because of the illegal logging operations, Russia loses an estimated $1 billion in revenues each year as well as enduring large environmental impacts that have put species such as the Far Eastern Leopard and the Siberian Tiger at even higher risk.
The problem is not only in Russia, but many Eastern European countries where spruce and pine trees are being cut down at an alarming rate. In fact, 35% of the imports of spruce and pine woods that create furniture are the result of illegal harvesting. Even worse, only the criminal elements who illegally cut down trees benefit from this practice as the local populace does not even receive tax money for the crime.
In addition, Indonesia and Africa are also experiencing a massive amount of illegal harvesting as well which is denuding their forests and putting in danger many animals, some of which are already on the endangered species list. The parquet flooring which comes from the Indonesian Merbau, the African Doussie and the Jatoba from the Amazon region are mostly from illegal sources.
The result is the decline of species such as the orangutans, jaguars, and African forest elephants a well. In fact, the sauna seats that may be in your home made from the Abachi once shaded the rare African forest elephant as their habitat is being destroyed. Worse, the Amazon is home to many rainforest species that make for excellent garden furniture which is being cut down at a considerable rate.
With so many wood products coming from illegal sources, it may seem like little is being done to curb these practices. However, there is an organization that has had a powerful impact in establishing practices in many countries which has changed the way wood is being harvested.
The Forest Stewardship Council
The FSC is an international organization that was established in 1993 to provide standards for the proper management of the forest industry around the world. In this manner, the FSC can identify where wood that has been harvested legally comes from and that the practices follow approved methods which do not damage the environment on a permanent basis.
In addition to proper forest management, the FSC also established international standards for clean air and water along with efforts to help mitigate climate change. The purpose of the FSC is to have a positive impact on the environment and slow down efforts at illegal logging and deforestation. By providing proper guidelines and resources, they have made a positive economic impact on many communities while helping to conserve the environment and empower local people in the managing of their surrounding forests.
The deforestation of the tropical areas of the world reached a crisis situation in the 1980s with little in the way of international rules or regulations to stop the practice of denuding forest areas. Although there were a number of organizations already formed to fight such practices, their efforts were scattered and not as effective.
At the 1992 Earth Summit, a critical mass of interests was expressed as the need for more binding agreements between nations was recognized in order to protect the forests of the world. The result was that international organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) began to focus their attention on this issue and helped to bring others into the fold as well.
The combination of efforts from the WWF and other groups along with governments brought about the Forest Stewardship Council that was first established in 1993. Recognized initially by 10 countries and with plenty of opposition, the FSC began by using efforts known as “soft law” which focused on informing consumers of the sources of wood products so that greater awareness could be generated. The result has been over the past two decades a shift in consumer habits of buying wood products from FSC sources and a lessening of the illegal practices that harm the environment.
An international association, the FSC acts as a platform for owners of the forests, timber industry, social and environmental organizations to find effective solutions in the proper management of the world’s lumber supply. In essence, the rules and regulations of the FSC are designed to keep forests intact and provide proper conservation methods recognized around the world.
The FSC logo on wood products indicates that they come from sources that comply with the standards of the organization. By purchasing the wood products with the FSC logo, you can rest assured that the environment was protected when the timber was felled and replaced by new growth which keeps the forests intact.
The work of the FSC is not nearly complete as the expansion of the demand for wood continues with many countries either unwilling or unable to stop the practice of harvesting trees illegally. Still, the efforts of the FSC along with other environmental concerns have made a powerful positive impact on the environment over the years.
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