Harvesting Trees Sustainably in Liberia

Time has just published my story on Liberia’s surprisingly sustainable logging industry.

Liberia, a country that for much of its recent history has been engaged in bloody wars, was once the last place on earth you’d expect to find a showcase for sustainable logging. As recently as 2003, before the country’s timber industry was slapped with U.N. sanctions, revenues from the sale of lumber were being used to fund a brutal uprising in Sierra Leone next door. Timber companies maintained private militias, accused by human-rights groups of rape and torture. Logging vessels arrived at port laden with weapons.

And yet today the country is on the path to becoming a model for sustainable timber. Ever since the U.N. sanctions were lifted after democratic elections in 2006, Liberia has been working on a painstaking reboot of the industry. With help from the U.S. and the European Union, the country is seeking to position itself as a guilt-free source of timber. “Liberia is different from other countries because of its history,” says Catherine Ray, a spokesperson for the E.U.’s commissioner for development. “They really want to avoid going back to where they were 20 years ago,” when the timber industry was rife with corruption and violence.

Read the rest.