Interesting—and maybe even positive—news this week out of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which recently decided to cancel two-thirds of its logging contracts, as part of a larger World Bank-supervised review to get rid of some of the corruption that's been plaguing the industry. Oddly enough, the country's vast rainforests have remained in better shape than most—unfortunately, that's because both the Mobutu kleptocracy and then years of civil war have scared off major timber companies for most of the past four decades.
Since 2003, though, as the country has more or less started to stabilize (albeit with pockets of conflict here and there), loggers have poured in and started mowing down forests unsupervised. A recent report found that less than one-third of 156 contracts released in Kinsasha live up to even minimum legal standards. Most were approved either during the 1998-2003 war or by the somewhat shady interim government that followed.
Trying to bring some semblance of order to the timber industry would be a huge deal: As Christian Parenti reported in his long piece for The Nation on the Congo's forests, "if deforestation continues unabated, by 2050 the DRC could release as much carbon dioxide as Britain has in the past sixty years." That's not even getting into the 40 million people who depend on the woodlands, or the war, desertification, migrations, etc. that would result. (Plus, it's not as if illegal logging overseen only by well-bribed and corrupt civil servants is helping the Congo's economy any.)
P.S. Speaking of which, Raffi Khatchadourian had a magnificent story in The New Yorker last week about the Environmental Investigation Agency, which runs covert operations (really) to disrupt the illegal logging trade. There's even a gunfight—sorta—at the end.