Welcome to the Forest Flyer, a quarterly news update from the United States Forest Service International Programs Africa and Middle East Team. To view previous issues of this newsletter, please click here. For more information about our programs, contact Kathleen Sheridan, Assistant Director, at kathleen.sheridan@usda.gov.
Stemming Forest Loss in Uganda
In the past 25 years, Uganda has lost approximately 60% of its standing forests.The country’s protected central forest reserves have not escaped this forest loss.

Uganda’s forests are critical to biodiversity and central to the country’s economy and people’s livelihoods.

The U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Agency for International Development and Uganda’s National Forest Authority have partnered to stem forest loss from long-term management challenges, agricultural encroachment and illegal wood harvesting. Key initiatives being taken are boundary demarcation, improved management and information systems and a community forest management model that enables community forest user groups to co-manage the forest reserves. Watch to learn more.
New Wood Guide to Aid Forest Officers in Identifying Protected Wood Species
In Mozambique, the U.S. Forest Service is partnering with university scientists to design a wood identification guide that helps forest officers detect endangered and banned wood species. The goal is to keep banned species from entering the wood value chain and to halt illegal logging activities.

We recently spoke with Dr. Ernesto Uetimane, a lecturer and researcher at Eduardo Mondlane University, Department of Forestry. Dr. Uetimane has been instrumental in the creation and design of the "Manual De Campo," wood identification guide.
I understand you are in the process of completing a wood identification guide. Who is the guide for, and how will he/she use it?

Answer: The guide is tailored to provide a quick field screening tool for forest officers inspecting the identity and legality of traded timber species in Mozambique.

How are tools like a wood identification field manual used to counter illegal logging?
What are some of the other tools, people or mechanisms that must be paired with the guide for effectiveness against illegal logging?

Answer: By using the guide, the law enforcement officers have a robust tool to detect endangered/banned/prohibited wood species and halt illegal logging activities. Training of custom officers will also be needed to help against false declaration of timber consignments and enforce correct tax duties.
What was most challenging about creating the guide?

Answer: The most challenging aspect was to create a manual for wood identification using anatomy features for forest officers that lack knowledge/education in forestry or related field/background.
What do you think is the most interesting aspect of the guide?

Answer: The guide is very illustrated to attract attention of its users. Basically, the approach is to check the anatomical pattern of the suspected sample against the reference images in the guide.
Is there anything else you would like to share about the guide?

Answer: We think the forest officers will need regular training and refresh courses on how to use the manual.

Below, Dr. Uetimane inputs anatomical patterns for wood identification.
Countering Illegal Logging and Transnational Organized Crime in Central Africa
A recent report by the Environment Investigations Agency (EIA)[1] detailed the extent to which corruption, transnational criminal activity and poor forest governance are negatively impacting forests of the Congo Basin. Republic of the Congo and Gabon were singled out for concern. 

[1] Environmental Investigations Agency, “Toxic Trade.” 2019 https://eia-global.org/reports/20190325-toxic-trade
In a region prone to unlawful timber practices, the Republic of the Congo (RoC) stands out in Central Africa for the severity of its illegal logging problem.

Sixty-five percent of RoC’s forests are under concession management, the highest percentage of any country in Central Africa, representing 26% of Congo Basin forests. Despite that high rate – or perhaps in part because of it – RoC’s ability to safeguard its forest resources and combat illegal timber trade are limited. The pervasive nature of the illegal timber trade exploits these limitations, resulting in crime at every level in the harvest and export supply chains.

To address its illegal logging problem, the Congolese government recently joined with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement and the U.S. Forest Service to undertake a two-year law enforcement capacity building program. Significant progress has been made during the past year, despite challenges brought on by the COVID pandemic. Read about the progress here.
Logging truck in the Republic of Congo. Photo credit: Richard Paton
Nowhere in Africa has the illegal timber trade been more blatantly exhibited recently than in Gabon, where an illicit shipment of over 350 shipping containers of illegally sourced rosewood was confiscated last year and much of it subsequently lost to transnational criminal operators. 

Still, several recent developments in Gabon offer a significant window of opportunity to address the illegal timber trade originating in the country and involving transnational organized criminal networks. First, the country’s Penal Code was recently amended to include criminal penalties for illicit timber harvesting and trade. These new provisions provide meaningful legal remedies to discourage illegal timber trade and related corrupt practices and to prosecute criminal operators. In addition, the government recently adopted a new environmental law unit in the national Libreville court that will empower judges and the broader criminal justice system to successfully prosecute illegal timber activities and related natural resource crimes and corruption.

Finally, and perhaps most important, the political will to counter the illegal timber trade in Gabon is now in place at the highest levels of government. Read more about what Gabon is doing to counter illegal timber trade and how the U.S. Forest Service is helping.

For more information please contact Richard Paton, U.S. Forest Service Central Africa Program, at richard.a.paton@usda.gov
New Wood Identification & Screening Center Offers Support for Lacey Act Enforcement

Illegal logging costs the United States forest products industry around $500 million annually due to lost export opportunities and depressed wood prices.

Read more
The US Forest Service International Programs Wood Identification & Screening Center, WISC, has opened new facilities at Oregon State University and expanded its team of scientists. The team of four, now embedded within OSU’s College of Forestry, offer wood species identification services to US government agencies.

From guitars to furniture, WISC can confirm what type of timber was used and expose potential Lacey Act violations. By partnering with OSU, WISC is pursuing research collaborations and student engagement opportunities in one of the world’s premier colleges of forestry. In addition to investing in the next generation of scientists, WISC will host international visitors for short and long-term trainings on wood identification to expand global use of improved wood ID technologies and ultimately provide greater enforcement of international laws against illegal timber trafficking.

Watch "Support the Lacey Act!" A short video by the Sierra Club to explain a landmark American conservation law.