The Green Formosa Front yesterday urged the government to halt its auctions of valuable wood and to calculate the overall amount of such wood currently circulating in the market.
GFF standing director Lin Chang-mao (林長茂), a veteran environmentalist, said auctions organized by local authorities to sell so-called “floating wood” (漂流木) have resulted in an uncertain amount of legally acquired lumber, because the actual amount in the market includes illegally logged wood and is therefore much larger than the amount sold by auction.
A bylaw of the Forestry Act (森林法) stipulates that a local government may auction floating wood or driftwood gathered within its jurisdiction. It also stipulates that the profits should be split equally between the local government and the central government.
The policy has opened up a backdoor for illegal loggers, who repeatedly use the same invoice during inspections to cover up their crimes, Lin said.
The government should stop the auctions for a couple of years to allow time to inventory all precious woods now on the market — including finished and half-finished wooden artifacts — just as it did when it banned the trading of elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns, Lin said.
In the future, trading of such wood should be carried out in a centralized way, he said.
“This way, all transactions of precious wood will be noted by the authorities. It is the only way to eliminate illegal logging,” he said.
Article 15 of the act, which stipulates that local residents may collect driftwood one month after a natural disaster occurs — for example typhoons and landslides — should be nullified, he said.
This stipulation has allowed unscrupulous loggers to chop down trees during typhoons and bury them along the catchment basins of reservoirs, then ship the wood one month later, he said.
He said the sale of Antrodia cinnamomea, a medicinal fungus, highlights the severity of illegal logging in this nation.
Every business selling Antrodia cinnamomea has stockpiled tonnes of stout camphor wood, where the fungi grow, even though the government has never auctioned stout camphor trees, he said.
Meanwhile, former Tainan city councilor Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) panned the way the bylaw was amended, saying that enforcement has become more lax over the years, encouraging illegal logging.
Referring to a recent incident in which Taitung-based wood dealer Su Chung-shan (蘇中山) and his younger brother, Su Chunug-fu (蘇中福), allegedly harvested a consignment of Taiwan yellow cedar and red cypress logs in Taitung and donated them to a temple in New Taipei City, Wang criticized the Forestry Bureau for interceding with the Su siblings over interpretations of the act.
The donation triggered a controversy over the origins of the logs.
When it was promulgated in 2004, the bylaw stated that the public should not collect any “first class” wood listed by the Forestry Bureau, including Taiwan yellow cedar and red cypress logs.
However, that portion was later deleted by a legislative resolution in 2010 and the bylaw now states that “the public should only collect driftwood that has no economic value.”
According to the bureau, top quality Taiwanese yellow cedar and red cypress logs are very valuable and sell for NT$133,420 and NT$100,825 per cubic meter respectively.
Forestry Bureau Deputy Director-General Yang Hung-chih (楊宏志) has previously said there should not be a rush to judgement over the Su brothers’ donation because they “might not necessarily have broken the law.”
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