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No issue in forestry evokes such strong emotions as logging - and for good reasons. Logging provides the timber and fiber needed to satisfy the rapidly increasing demands of today’s societies. It generates billions of dollars in revenues, supports national economic and industrial development, and provides income and employment for millions of individuals. It conveys immense power and prestige to officials responsible for allocating harvesting rights and monitoring logging practices.

But logging - especially as conventionally conducted in many countries - also can cause significant damage to forests, or even facilitate the conversion of forests to other land uses. Logging is viewed by many people as a key factor in the loss of biological diversity and species habitats, deterioration of watersheds and water quality, expansion of deserts and the demise of forest-dependent people. Moreover, timber harvesting is frequently seen as benefiting only a small segment of society, leaving poor people to shoulder its costs. Arguments become even more emotional when logging is blamed for causing or exacerbating floods, landslides or other natural disasters that result in loss of human life.

In response to rapid deforestation and forest degradation, a number of countries in Asia and the Pacific have imposed partial or total bans on harvesting timber from natural forests. Several other countries are contemplating similar measures. The study of the Impacts and effectiveness of logging bans in natural forests arose from the need to assess the successes and failures of such strategies and approaches in the Asia-Pacific region. While logging bans and other harvesting restrictions are intuitively attractive measures to support forest protection, more rigorous analysis reveals that conserving forests is not so easy as simply banning logging.

There are a number of questions regarding the effectiveness and impacts of logging bans. For example, will logging bans actually help maintain or expand the natural forest estate, or will logging continue “illegally” and perhaps even more destructively than in the past? Will countries that restrict domestic timber production simply import more wood from exporting countries, which may not have adequate capacities for ensuring sustainable forest harvesting? What will be the effects on income and employment for forest-dependent workers, communities and governments? Is it reasonable to expect timber plantations to substitute for natural forests in supplying wood needs? What are the necessary supporting conditions needed to enhance the success of logging bans and measures to conserve natural forests? The answers to these questions are crucial in guiding government policies related to logging restrictions and ensuring a policy framework that effectively supports forest conservation.

This study, requested by the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC), highlights the increasing relevance of regional cooperation in developing forestry policy in Asia and the Pacific. The sharing of national experiences within the regional forum supports more efficient assessment and policy development, while ensuring that analyses retain a high degree of social, geographic and ecological relevance. This study continues a growing tradition of timely, high-quality APFC studies, which FAO is pleased to support as part of its efforts to promote sustainable forest management in the region.

R.B. Singh
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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