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26/10/2016

When Forest Experts Become Detectives

This meme from one of the presentations humorously depicts forensic timber analysis experts
Timber theft crime scenes may hold many clues and important evidence. At the crime scene, investigators can document and collect evidence that indicates species, volume and harvest methods. Frequently, clues at the crime scene may indicate the specific person or persons involved. Footprints, vehicle tire and track impressions, garbage, discarded tools and other items may yield important clues to an investigation. (From the presentation "Introduction to Timber Theft" by Phil Huff and Mark Burgeson)
We need to ensure that only legally harvested timber is transported, manufactured and sold as wood products. To accomplish that, we need to find a way to associate wood products with legally harvested trees. How do we follow wood from the stump to the sawmill and finally to the specialty product market? With great difficulty… (From the presentation "Introduction to Timber Theft" by Phil Huff and Mark Burgeson)

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine exchanged the latest information on the law enforcement and crime prevention in the forest sector at a sub-regional workshop, organized by FLEG II in close collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

The FLEG countries and representatives of USFS and US Department of Justice gathered on 10-11 October 2016, at a two-day sub-regional workshop in Moldova.

They were also joined by the Moldovan governmental authorities from the Ministry of Environment, Agency Moldsilva, and State Ecological Inspectorate; the largest Moldovan NGO - Ecological Movement of Moldova; representatives of World Bank, WWF, IUCN and EU Delegation to Moldova. The Romanian Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests brought the EU member state perspective to the event.

The 30 participants of the workshop shared opinions and lessons learned, including case studies and approaches to address forest crimes. These included modern methodologies and technology to combat timber theft, poaching, and other environmental crimes. The objective of the event was to bring the best international practice to FLEG countries in a regional context.

All five ENPI FLEG countries present at the event made presentations of their own country’s attempts to address illegality associated with forest ecosystems: e.g. wood tracking/traceability systems and forest guarding. US Forest Service experts introduced modern investigation tools and methods of combatting forest crimes. These included identification of crime, DNA evidence to species and location identification, technical investigative equipment, cooperation with the general public, etc.

A half-day visit to the State Ecological Inspectorate of Moldova, the main institution in Moldova dealing with environmental law enforcement, allowed the participants to exchange experiences, address challenges, uncover gaps and discuss ways to improve the law enforcement work.

“We undertake control activities over all types of forest vegetation, be it a forest unit of Agency Moldsilva or an agricultural forest shelterbelt managed by a local public community, in order to ensure that their management goes according to the technical norms and environmental laws”, said Mr. Vadim Stingaci, deputy chief of the State Ecological Inspectorate.

“In our work, however, we attest various incidents, from small-scale illegal logging driven by livelihood needs or manipulation with wood volumes in record papers by forestry staff to abusive infringements of the law, such as poaching, by high-level officials”, said Mr. Stingaci. “The workshop helped us get a lot of insights into detecting and investigating these crimes. Forest crimes are a worldwide problem and to reduce or eliminate it we need to be methodologically and technically well prepared”.



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