Characters such as the “Ramin King,” mob violence and men who claim to make more money trafficking timber than smuggling drugs populate this The New Yorker magazine story by Raffi Khatchadourian titled "The Stolen Forests."

It’s good reading if you would like to learn more about the illegal lumber trade (especially in relation to Russian forests, China’s primary and secondary wood industries, and American big box stores), or if you’re simply a fan of detective tales. The story includes environmental espionage, follows a supply chain of allegedly illegal timber and even points to illicit logging’s role in the regime of former Liberian president and warlord Charles Taylor.

It focuses primarily on the efforts of an environmental group that traces high-risk Russian wood purchased by Chinese primary wood suppliers to secondary wood manufacturers in China. These secondary manufacturers then sell finished goods such as cribs to big box retailers in the United States.

The article made some interesting points, including a member of the Environmental Investigation Industry’s claim that many developed countries import raw timber from nations without large illegal logging problems, but wood can be packaged in so many different forms that plenty of illicit lumber still ends up being sold in the West as finished product.

Do you think the passage of the illegal timber amendment to the Lacey Act (which prohibits the use of lumber in the U.S. taken from a country that is in violation of that country’s laws) will cut down on the use of high-risk timber? Or is the supply chain from imported lumber too muddled to trace?

Does your company use any imported lumber or secondary wood products? If so, have you taken steps to prevent high-risk wood from entering your supply chain? Are there any strategies that have worked for you to figure out exactly where the wood is coming from?

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