Research and data on forest commodity supply chains and policy


Timber is harvested illegally in a number of ways.

Several common methods include:

  1. Harvesting more trees than what is permitted by the forest management plan.
  2. Mis-labeling high-value trees as lower valuable species during the forest inventory. 
  3. Felling trees with a smaller diameter than what is permitted.
  4. Logging trees from forest areas that are not part of a specified management plan. (Or are outside of plan boundaries, or from expired plans.)
  5. Logging trees during illegal forest clearing.

(Note: The first three methods can occur even in legal forest management areas.)

In a new initiative that should help lower the frequency of the last method – illegal logging during illegal forest clearing – the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso has announced the implementation of a new system that detects illegal deforestation in “real time”. 

Using daily satellite images, the state government will identify illegal deforestation as small as one hectare. Once identified, they will notify the land owner via an email documenting the infraction.

This new system should improve detection of illegal deforestation as it occurs, and reduce the time elapsed before acting on these incidents. This is significant because in Brazil, the time between illegal deforestation and enforcement of laws can take years, often 4-5 years.

If this does help reduce illegal deforestation, this is a small piece of good news for buyers of wood products from Mato Grosso. It should mean that one of the five main ways in which illegal logs enter supply chains becomes less common there.

See: Illegal logging accounted for 37% of the forest area logged in Mato Grosso

Concerned about legal risks in timber supply chains? Join TimberCheck™ or check the Timber Risk Map. Want to explore the declared origin of a wood product? Start a WoodFlow™. Curious what the forest looks like after the presumed harvest, request access to TimberSat™.

Header photo: USGS

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