The annual loss of global forest area of about 13 million hectares, particularly in the tropics, is mainly caused by conversion of forest land into other types of land use. However, a significant share is caused by unsustainable forest management and illegal logging. Illegal logging contributes to deforestation and by extension global warming, causes loss of biodiversity and undermines the rule of law. Many tree species are endangered, and new, even less known species are entering the market.
The Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) lists endangered tree species and limits their trade. For species with the highest protection level (CITES Appendix 1) there is a strict trade prohibition, similar to that for ivory. Species in the second and third protection level can only be traded under strict regulations. The convention thus protects endangered tree species without preventing naturally sustainable forestry.
The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), in effect since March 2013, prohibits the marketing of illegally harvested wood. All market participants who bring wood and wood products into the EU are obligated to exercise ‘due diligence’.
The EU developed in 2003 the FLEGT Action Plan (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) which provides a number of measures to exclude illegal timber from markets, improve the supply of legal timber and increase the demand for wood products from legal sources. Thus the sustainability of forest management in tropical countries is supported. The main elements of the FLEGT action plan are the EUTR and the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs). VPAs are negotiated between EU member states and timber exporting countries that help to prevent illegal timber from being placed on the European market. Wood and wood-based products carrying a FLEGT licence, is considered to comply with the EUTR.
The German Timber Trade Safeguard Act (HolzSiG) implements the EUTR and the measures of the EU FLEGT Action Plan into national law.
The Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung, BLE) is the competent authority in Germany responsible for the control of the EU Timber Trade Regulation and HolzSiG. The controls include visits of the timber importers and sampling for further analysis of declared species and origin at the Thünen Centre of Competence. The BLE inspectors are trained and supported by scientists from the Thünen Centre of Competence.