The forestry sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been facing the problem of illegal logging for years, the consequences of which are not only material, but such unscrupulous behavior towards one of the key natural resources causes other dangers - environmental, safety, health problems.
The causes of this problem are numerous, ranging from rapidly rising firewood prices to the growing presence of corruption in the forestry sector, to the lack of a legal framework for forests at the level of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Cantonal Forestry Administrations state that the non-existence of the Forest Law at the federal level leads to a slower resolution of the problem of illegal logging. They believe that the solution to this problem "lies" in the active participation of higher levels of government in the process of stabilizing the forestry sector.
The importance of forests should not be underestimated
Our survival depends on the forests, from the air we breathe to the wood we use. In addition to providing habitats for animals and human life, forests also offer basin protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change. Yet, despite our dependence on forests, we still allow them to disappear.
The data of the Cantonal Forestry Administrations on the presence of illegal activities are worrying
During 2019, 5,763.29 m3 of illegally felled timber was recorded in the Sarajevo Canton, which indicates an increase in illegal logging in this area compared to 2017 and 2018. In 2019, 418 reports were made for illegal logging and timber trade, which is 9% more than in 2017 and 2018. It is encouraging that during 2019 in certain municipalities: Ilidža, Hadžići, Trnovo, Novi Grad and Novo Sarajevo significantly reduced the amount of illegally felled timber compared to 2017 and 2018, which raises hopes that other municipalities in the Sarajevo Canton could follow suit. Also, in addition to illegal logging, the problem of illegal cutting units (sawmills) in the municipality of Ilijaš has been permanently present since the end of the war until today. Realizing the importance of this problem, the Forestry Administration of Sarajevo Canton worked on solving this problem in cooperation with the Municipality of Ilijaš, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Cantonal and Federal Inspectorate for Forestry. In the past period, significant results were made, and during 2019, monitoring was performed without any sealing of the cutting unit.
In the Zenica-Doboj Canton in 2019, a total of 17,053.14 m3 of illegally felled timber was recorded in state and private forests, the value of which is estimated at over million BAM. The recorded illegally cut wood mass is 13% higher compared to 2018. The estimated amount of damage from forest theft increased by 20%, while the seizure of timber was increased by 52%. The Cantonal Administration states that in addition to this institution, forest companies that are obliged by contract to control and supervise the forest, as well as the Ministry of the Interior, which will control transport, should be included in the continuous prevention of illegal activities, because the Cantonal Administration has limited control of timber transport. As one of the key problems from the Cantonal Administration, they state the insufficient number of forest inspectors (two inspectors for the entire canton) in relation to the scope of work.
In the area of Una-Sana Canton during 2019, 2,233.4 m3 of illegally felled timber was recorded. 326 applications were submitted, and the total amount of damage is over 120,000 BAM. During 2019, no damages were collected, while the biggest damages were caused in the forest management area of Unsko.
The 2019 Report of Canton 10 states that there is no data on illegal logging, because most of the information on illegal activities submitted by forestries to the Administration has so far been incomplete or did not contain data that would be relevant. The Cantonal Administration received information on a large number of illegal logging, but mainly in the form of notifications, and not in the form of calculation of timber as determined by the Ordinance on the manner of determining and compensating for damage caused in forests and forest land. This is why the Cantonal Administration is not able to record a large proportion of illegal logging in the state forest.
How to solve this problem of BiH forestry?
The factors that contribute to the emergence of illegal activities in the forestry sector are multiple and interrelated. Therefore, any strategy aimed at tackling illegal activities must be comprehensive and include a wide range of political, legal, institutional and technical options to streamline policy and legal framework, build law enforcement capacities and improve data and knowledge on forest resources and the forestry sector, in general.