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The three 'forest witnesses', who, along with their communities, rely on the forests for their livelihoods, are sharing their experiences with MPs of the devastating impacts illegal logging can have on forests, people and wildlife and the and the benefits of responsibly managed forests.
 
Louise Nyavughoye works with indigenous pygmy tribes whose survival is threatened by illegal logging. Dieudonné Makaya helps manage a sustainable forest concession while WWF forest officer François Makoloh is working with communities in DRC, one of the poorest countries in the world, to improve living conditions and keep the forest standing. The Congo Basin, one of the world's last great forest regions and home to species such as gorillas and elephants, is being threatened by illegal logging.

The trio are going to Westminster today (Tuesday 21st ) to meet politicians and businesses to raise awareness about the need to ensure that timber imported into the UK is not just legal but also responsibly sourced, through a proven certification scheme such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

A new EU regulation in March 2013 will mean those supplying timber to the EU market will have to show that it is legal. By then the UK government needs to ensure that key legislation is in place to exclude illegal timber. Currently, the UK is the third highest importer of products made from illegal timber in Europe after Germany and Italy. This is the equivalent to fill just over 115 Royal Albert Halls.

On their visit to the UK, they have so far seen examples of where sustainable timber from the Congo has been used in construction. They visited Southend pier to see how, in 2010, it was repaired using FSC-certified Ekki wood from the Congo Basin. They also went to the Olympic site in Stratford to see how they are using sustainable certified timber.

Beatrix Richards, head of Forest Policy and Trade at WWF UK, said: The forest witnesses are here to remind politicians that they need not only to ensure key legislation is in place to exclude illegal timber from the UK, but also that this timber comes from responsibly managed forests. People in the UK can help by ensuring the timber products they buy are FSC certified."

A recent survey by WWF found that EU countries are not doing enough to stem the flow of illegal and unsustainable timber or regulating its sale, despite the upcoming introduction of legislation to halt its import.

So far only four countries are ready to receive licensed timber and as many as nine have still to put in place any of the necessary implementing measures for the EU Timber Regulation. The UK has been the most consistent high scorer on performance, but has become one of the slowest in terms of improving its performance.

Choosing FSC certified wood products, from garden furniture to toilet paper, is the best way for the public to ensure that timber has been harvested legally and with respect for forests, people and wildlife.

The trip is part of WWF's 'What Wood You Choose?' campaign. The two-year, EU-funded initiative raises awareness of the impacts of wood and paper consumption in the UK on communities in timber-producing developing countries.

For more information about the campaign visit:
wwf.org.uk/whatwoodyouchoose

ENDS
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