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  • Richard Conniff

  • Reviews for Richard Conniff’s Books

    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Posts Tagged ‘illegal logging’

How Forest Certification Fails

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 20, 2018

Logging in tiger habitat (Photo: Anatoly Kabanets / WWF-Russia)

by Richard Conniff/Yale Environment 360

When the Forest Stewardship Council got its start in 1993, it seemed to represent a triumph of market-based thinking over plodding command-and-control government regulation. Participants in the 1992 Rio Earth Summit had failed to reach agreement on government intervention to control rampant tropical deforestation. Instead, environmental organizations, social movements, and industry banded together to establish a voluntary system for improving logging practices and certifying sustainable timber.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) soon set standards that seemed genuinely exciting to environmental and social activists, covering the conservation and restoration of forests, indigenous rights, and the economic and social well-being of workers, among other criteria. For industry, FSC certification promised not just a better way of doing business, but also higher prices for wood products carrying the FSC seal of environmental friendliness.

A quarter-century later, frustrated supporters of FSC say it hasn’t worked out as planned, except maybe for the higher prices: FSC reports that tropical forest timber carrying its label brings 15 to 25 percent more at auction. But environmental critics and some academic researchers say FSC has had little or no effect on tropical deforestation. Moreover, a number of recent logging industry scandals suggest that the FSC label has at times served merely to “greenwash” or “launder” trafficking in illegal timber:

  • In a 2014 report, Greenpeace, an FSC member, slammed the organization for standing by as FSC-certified loggers ravaged the Russian taiga, particularly the Dvinsky Forest, more than 700 miles north of Moscow. Greenpeace accused FSC-certified logging companies there of “wood-mining” forests the way they might strip-mine coal, as a nonrenewable resource, and of harvesting “areas that are either slated for legal protection or supposed to be protected as a part of FSC requirements.”

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Gaining Ground in the Fight to Stop Illegal Logging

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 9, 2018

Illegal logging of Spanish cedar along the Las Piedras River, Madre de Dios, Peru. (Photo: Andre Baertschi)

by Richard Conniff/The New York Times

Strange as it may sound, we have arrived at a moment of hope for the world’s forests. It is, admittedly, hope of a jaded variety: After decades of hand-wringing about rampant destruction of forests almost everywhere, investigators have recently demonstrated in extraordinary detail that much of this logging is blatantly illegal.

And surprisingly, people actually seem to be doing something about it. In November, the European Court of Justice put Poland under threat of a 100,000-euro-per-day fine for illegal logging in the continent’s oldest forest, and last month Poland’s prime minister fired the environment minister who authorized the logging.

In Romania, two big do-it-yourself retail chains ended purchasing agreements with an Austrian logging giant implicated in illegal logging there. And in this country, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, normally dedicated to free trade at any cost, has barred a major exporter of Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Environmental Issues, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Wildlife Has A Kind Word for a Hedge Fund Manager

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 27, 2016

A Siberian tiger in the forests of Primorskii province near Vladivostok, Russia. (Photo: Animal Press/Barcroft Media/Getty Images)

A Siberian tiger in the forests of Primorskii province near Vladivostok, Russia. (Photo: Animal Press/Barcroft Media/Getty Images)

This is my latest for, a follow-up on last week’s New York Times column about illegal logging by Lumber Liquidators:

Everybody hates hedge fund managers, and even hedge fund managers don’t much like the short sellers among them. Short sellers are a peculiar breed who scrupulously avoid the happy talk that dominates the rest of the market. Instead, they specialize in ferreting out corporate bad behavior. Then they bet that the sins of such a company will sooner or later come out, causing the stock to collapse. This makes them about as popular as a fundamentalist preacher at a Mardi Gras parade. They are also not above public shaming to make a stock collapse sooner.

You might think this has nothing to do with wildlife. Let me fill in some background. In October 2013, the Environmental Investigation Agency, a conservation nonprofit, went public with the results of a five-year investigation in the Russian Far East. The forests there are the only habitat of the world’s last wild Siberian tigers and Amur leopards.

The tigers in particular have been the focus of a 25-year conservation effort by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Wildlife Fund, and their Russian counterparts. At a cost of about $7 million so far, that effort has succeeded in increasing the populations to about 500 tigers and 50 leopards. Each tiger needs hundreds of square miles of forest, and the biggest threat to their survival comes from illegal logging of that forest.

The EIA undercover agents had gone into the area posing as lumber buyers. They saw where the illegal logging was happening. Then they followed the wood back to a factory in China that was the single largest buyer. There they saw (and videotaped) former tiger habitat being turned into living room floors and packed in boxes labeled

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Posted in Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

In A Russian Forest: The High Cost of Our Discount Prices

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 20, 2016

From tiger habitat to your living room floor (Photo by Anatoly Kabanets / WWF-Russia)

From tiger habitat to your living room floor, via Lumber Liquidators (Photo by Anatoly Kabanets / WWF-Russia)

My latest for The New York Times:

I HAVE loved wood and the smell of sawdust ever since I was a child and got to wander among the open sheds and in earshot of the whine of the tablesaw at the local lumberyard. But for years now I have had a sick feeling every time I shop for almost anything made of wood. The prices are often unbelievably good, but then I notice the words “Made in Vietnam,” or some other country where illegal logging is demolishing forests at appalling speed, largely for the United States and European markets.

So I was pleased when I read this month that a federal judge had approved a criminal settlement in just such a logging case. But I was also disappointed that the settlement imposed no jail sentences and fined Lumber Liquidators just $13.1 million, pocket change for the largest retailer of hardwood flooring in the United States. The crime, a felony, was importing and selling flooring, via China, that was illegally logged in the forests of Russia’s Far East.

Lumber Liquidators is of course more notorious for Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »