LIMA, Peru — Some of the fine wooden furniture that makes for chic centerpieces in American homes are being sourced in far less elegant ways in this South American country.
Environmentalists have long sounded alarms about illegal logging, claiming that export companies profit from ransacking the jungle of rare hardwood species in poor countries with lax law enforcement.
Now, the U.S. government is taking a tougher stance.
Washington has given Peru one more chance to clean up its forestry sector and stop exporting illegally logged timber to the United States.
Widespread laundering of illegally logged timber
The move is a response to a report by green nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) that detailed widespread “laundering” of illicit wood in the Peruvian Amazon to make it appear as though it had come from legitimate logging concessions.
In a joint statement, Peru and the U.S. unveiled a five-point plan to tackle “specific challenges that remain in Peru’s forestry sector.”
The plan includes increasing the number and training of logging inspectors, more on-site inspections in remote concessions, new systems to track the supply chain of timber and criminal prosecutions of anyone—including public officials—involved in illegal logging.
The White House agency responsible for foreign trade said the measures would “further Peru’s implementation of its obligations” under the forestry section of a 2006 free trade treaty with the U.S.
But that response was condemned as inadequate by Julia Urrunaga, EIA’s Peru director, who dismissed it as “yet another action plan” while “criminals continue to cut down our forests with impunity.”
EIA had wanted Washington to pressure Peru to launch criminal prosecutions based on the information in its report and consider suspending future imports of wood from the South American country.
“To tackle illegal logging in Peru, you have to focus on the widespread corruption and the lack of resources that the Peruvian government dedicates to governing our vast forests,” Urrunaga told GlobalPost.
“Most importantly, those who violate the law must know that there are consequences for their wrongdoing.”
Titled The Laundering Machine and published in 2010, the EIA report detailed numerous cases of legal forestry concessions being used as cover for the unsustainable and criminal ransacking of Peru’s vast tropical rain forest, roughly twice the size of California.
It claimed that impoverished migrant loggers, working in remote jungle camps in appalling conditions that violated basic labor rights, plundered Spanish cedar and big leaf mahogany—both used for high-end furniture—in areas including national parks and indigenous reserves.