U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Illegal Logging: A Market-Based Analysis of Trafficking in Illegal Timber, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2006
58 pages
This literature review presents a market-based description of the current trade in illegal timber, with an emphasis on the economic and political structures that enable the logging, milling, and trafficking of illegal timber.
Legally and illegally harvested timber is indistinguishable in international commerce, making the illegal timber industry difficult to police. Estimates suggest that the scope of the total woods products trade in 2002 was approximately $186 billion in wood products, pulp, paper, and paperboard trade. Approximately 6 percent of the total timber trade and 17 percent of the total plywood trade in 2002 was illegal. The analysis indicates that four main patterns of economic and political structures characterize the illegal logging industry across nations and over time: (1) Enforcement/Rule of Law; (2) Enforcement/No Rule of Law; (3) Some Enforcement/No Rule of Law; and (4) No Enforcement/No Rule of Law. In countries with a strong national enforcement mechanism and a strong rule of law, such as the United States and Canada (Enforcement/Rule of Law), illegal logging is minimal. In countries characterized by Enforcement/No Rule of Law, such as Cambodia, illegal timbering and corruption is widespread and difficult to control. In countries where the rule of law is inoperable and there is limited enforcement (Some Enforcement/No Rule of Law), illegal timbering is also significant, such as in Brazil. Countries characterized by No Enforcement/No Rule of Law, such as the Republic of Congo and Cameroon, have unfettered marketplaces for illegal timber but may be limited in production capability by the absence of effective infrastructure for harvesting forests. The analysis also reports on the types of offenders related to illegal timbering and identifies various forms of government complicity that range from corruption to indifference. Generally, the analysis suggests that the main force behind illegal timbering is the centrality of consumer nations. As such, regulating illegal timbering may require the development of methods for distinguishing between legally and illegally harvested timber. The appendix contains a review of technologies for combating illegal logging. Figures, tables, footnotes, references, appendix

Date Published: May 1, 2006