The Forestry Bureau yesterday said it would amend penalties for illegally logged timber, with a new method for calculating fines possibly leading to a 10-fold increase.
The announcement came after police in Hsinchu County on Thursday said they had arrested an illegal logging ring that had allegedly been felling Taiwanese red and yellow cypress trees in the local mountains for years, detaining 15 suspects and confiscating timber worth more than NT$1 million (US$33,850).
The Forestry Act (森林法) was amended in 2016, imposing prison sentences of up to 10 years and six months for illegal logging, and fines of five to ten times the value of the stolen timber, bureau Director-General Lin Hwa-ching (林華慶) said.
However, the amendment did not specify how the value of the stolen property should be determined, so courts would calculate based on the weight or size of the timber, Lin said.
The calculations often failed to reflect the value of certain types of wood, having appraised pieces of precious timber at only NT$10,000 — while its market price would have exceed NT$100,000, he said.
The bureau is drafting an amendment to the act to specify that the value should be assessed according to market prices, to deter illegal logging, he said.
The draft amendment is expected to be submitted to the Executive Yuan for review by the end of the year.
As for whether the draft amendment would seek to impose longer sentences on illegal loggers, Lin said that the 2016 amendment had already raised sentences, adding that the bureau periodically assesses whether increased sentences have reduced illegal logging.
Police in Taiwan had broken upan average of more than 300 illegal logging operations per year before 2016, and the number has dropped to about 200 after that year’s amendment, he added.
The bureau is also to introduce a certificate for wood products from legally logged timber, he said.
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