Clampdown on illegal logging in the works ahead of winter

The Financial Crimes Squad, the police and forestry officials are to begin joint checks on lumber yards selling wood for fireplaces and stoves in a bid to target illegal logging, which has risen over the last couple of years as Greeks look for ways of beating the soaring cost of heating oil.

The special secretary for forests at the Environment Ministry, Giorgos Amorgianiotis, told Kathimerini that the checks will aim to make sure that traders are not selling illegally felled or imported wood for burning.

?Given the huge demand for wood that we saw last winter, there have been major imports of wood from Bulgaria in order to cover the demand this year,? he said. ?We are going to inspect lumber yards to check where the wood has come from, if it has been obtained legally, and if the forest service has supplied the appropriate documents.?

Authorities noted a substantial rise in illegal logging last year due to rising heating costs, and with a rise in tax expected to send heating fuel to 1.60 euros per liter this winter, there is concern that some individuals will cut down trees without permission.

Due to the circumstances, the Environment Ministry said that it is making special arrangements with residents of villages located near forests. They will be given the right to chop down trees in order to heat their homes but only as long as the process is overseen by a forest ranger. Villages located at altitudes of more than 650 meters will be able to buy logs at discount from the state, which also cuts wood for its own needs.

Greek forests suffered substantial damage over the summer due to wildfires. According to the Greek branch of the WWF environmental group, 10 percent of the 50,000 hectares burned this summer was forestland, 37 percent was shrubland, 27 percent comprised low vegetation and 26 percent was farmland.

WWF called for better awareness campaigns to prevent such fires and for the government to finish compiling forest maps, thereby deterring those seeking to build on burnt land.

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