The total demand for forest products is expected to double every ten years. Clearing forests is often considered a pre-requisite for economic development in countries where large forest tracts still exist. Pressure increases from the demands for more agricultural land (particularly in the tropics where shifting cultivation is increasingly practised); the establishment of new human settlements; and the development of water impoundments, transportation systems, etc. In some areas conflicting needs can be satisfied without reducing the long-term productive capacity of forests and without deteriorating other natural resources or the environment in general; recreation, grazing, and aesthetic considerations usually constrain timber production. However, in other areas, such as tropical regions, arid regions, regions of dense population or those adjacent to major industrial concentrations, forest depletion and degradation are taking place at an accelerated rate; adverse changes in micro-climates, soils, and water cycles sometimes result, and both the quality of the environment and the productive capacity of other natural resources are then affected by local and possibly regional changes in climate, the increased frequency of floods, accelerating soil erosion by wind and runoff (and subsequent silting of water bodies), and the destruction of the natural habitat of wildlife.
The world's forestry resources are shrinking at an alarming rate; in Latin America, between 5 and 10 million hectares are felled annually for agriculture. The need for foreign exchange encourages many developing countries to cut timber faster than forests can be regenerated. This overcutting not only depletes the resource that underpins the world timber trade, it causes loss of forest-based livelihoods, increases soil erosion and downstream flooding, and accelerates the loss of species and genetic resources.
Logging roads cut deep into the heart of the rainforest will allow unprecedented access to vast, remote forest regions and to the wild animal population. The commercial hunting of wild animals has reached a fever pitch, far outstripping sustainable consumption. The chimpanzee, as well as other great apes and endangered species, are in peril of being wiped out by this so-named "bushmeat" trade.
During 1998 the deepening of the economic crisis in Indonesia, has caused blatant disregard of the laws and disrespect for the forests of Indonesia to mushroom. Poachers have always been a problem in and around protected forests, however, illegal logging operations have spread like a cancer and have overwhelmed the Nature and Forest Conservation officials' ability to control them. Virtually no protected forested area in Indonesia has been immune to this travesty. The national parks with the largest and most accessible trees have been most vulnerable. May 7, 1999, a dire situation developing in the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. Suaq Balimbing Research Station is being illegally logged. It is within Gunung Leuser National Park, and is supposed to be a protected area, but there is no local enforcement, in spite of repeated requests from the station and the Leuser Management Unit/ Leuser Development Programme. The situation has become critical, as threats are made against research assistants, and logging continues to invade the research area. In the two months previous to May 1999, about 144 hectares within the established trail system have been effected by logging. This is about one-quarter of the entire research area. Large areas directly adjacent to the study area have been logged as well.
We have been kidding ourselves for a decade that industrial logging can be practised together with conserving values of mixed species forests. The fact is, the two are incompatible.