The innovative Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade (RAFT) program, coordinated by The Nature Conservancy, will receive an AUD $6 million extension from the Australian Government, announced by Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry today.
The RAFT program aims to harness the power of global trade and unite actors from the forest floor to the highest levels of government to make forestry in the Asia Pacific region more sustainable. Today’s announcement links the resources of Australia and the United States—two major markets for wood products with the shared goal of eradicating illegally and destructively sourced timber from global supply chains.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, an area of forest larger than Montana has disappeared in the Asia Pacific region in the last two decades. Much of that is due to illegal and destructive logging.
Andrew Ingles, Chief Technical Advisor of The Nature Conservancy’s Asia Pacific Forest Program, said, “RAFT partners have already helped get 3.2 million acres of tropical forest certified as sustainably managed by the Forest Stewardship Council and are working to increase that number every day. This new program will allow us to have an even bigger and more lasting impact by pooling the resources of multiple actors who are interested in using the timber trade to protect Asia Pacific’s forests.”
RAFT brings together a coalition of established organizations active in promoting responsible forestry and trade in Asia Pacific, including The Nature Conservancy, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), TFT (The Forest Trust), the Tropical Forest Foundation (TFF), TRAFFIC – the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network and WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN).
This new phase of RAFT builds on five years—dating from 2006-2011—of partnership successes and learning funded by the United States Agency for International Development.
In 2010, the United States was the top buyer of wood furniture from the Asia Pacific region, with China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia among the top ten suppliers of all wood and paper products to the US market. And yet, only an estimated 10-20% of imported wood and paper products in the United States come from certified sustainably managed forests.
Jack Hurd, the Deputy Director for the Conservancy’s Asia-Pacific region, said that American companies have an important role to play in eliminating the trade of illegal wood products by choosing to import certified legal and sustainable wood products.
“We’re pleased to add the Australian Government to the long list of partners that is helping to make RAFT’s vision a reality,” he said. “In conjunction with people all over the world—including American consumers of wood products, like you and me—they’re investing in the future of our forests and tipping the balance in favor of sustainable forestry practices.”
Today’s announcement to continue RAFT’s work will help strengthen the efforts of major markets to prevent imports of products made with wood that has been taken or traded illegally—like the Lacey Act in the US and Australia’s new Illegal Logging Prohibition Act, which came into effect this November.
“Protecting forests does not mean having to halt logging,” Ingles said. “Responsible forestry and trade is an alternative that is good for the global economy and is also good for people and nature in Asia Pacific’s remaining rainforests.”
 United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics database (UN COMTRADE), 2010.
 Duery, S. & R.P. Vlosky, 2006. U.S. Demand for Certified Tropical Hardwood Products: The Supply Chain Perspective; Duery, S., Gaitán, T., and Stoian, D., 2009. Oportunidades de Ventas de Madera Tropical Certificada en los Estados Unidos. Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
Deputy Director, Asia Pacific Program
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