Congress Introduces Landmark Illegal Logging Bill
Greenpeace today hailed the introduction of landmark legislation to confront the global challenge of illegal logging. The Combat Illegal Logging Act, introduced today by Sen. Ron Wyden (D- OR), would put into place the strongest mechanisms enacted by any country to stop the flow of illegal timber in international trade by closing the consumer markets that drive that trade. Identical language will be brought forward in the House as an amendment to the Legal Timber Protection Act (H.R. 1497) introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) in March. The bills represent a unique collaboration among industry, labor and environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency.
"This Combat Illegal Logging Act represents a huge stride forward in curbing one of the most significant environmental and social challenges facing our planet," said Carroll Muffett, Deputy Campaigns Director for Greenpeace USA. "In addition to its direct impacts on biodiversity, tropical deforestation accounts for up to 25% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, making it a major contributor to global warming."
"It also contributes to human suffering," Muffett added. "From the Amazon to Indonesia to the Congo, illegal logging has been linked to violence, human rights abuses, loss of land for indigenous communities, and a loss of tax revenue for some of the world's poorest countries."
The Combat Illegal Logging bill extends the hundred-year old Lacey Act, which has banned imports of illegal fish and wildlife for decades but did not previously apply to timber. Under this new bill, wood and paper products harvested in violation of foreign or international law would be reachable under Lacey-and by US courts. Previously, only a handful of species protected by international treaty received such protection. It would also specify the types of foreign law violations that trigger Lacey Act liability for timber and timber products, based on those that rise to the level of international concern, as defined in a recent AF&PA study. The Combat Illegal Logging Act also would create a declaration requirement to facilitate the Lacey Act's enforcement for timber without placing an undue burden upon law-abiding businesses.
Calls to close the U.S. market to imports of illegal logs have received broad support from both industry and environmental advocates. Under existing law, there are few mechanisms in place to actually stop the flow of illegal woods into the country. Through these bills, Sen. Wyden and Rep. Blumenauer have filled this gap and for the first time ever, allowed the U.S. to officially stop the flow of illegal wood into the country. This puts an end to unnecessary losses for domestic companies who are forced to compete with cheap illegal wood products flowing into the U.S.
The bills are a direct result of work by Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency, who have been highlighting the gaps in existing U.S. law on this issue, and documenting the flow of illegal timber entering the U.S. from across the world. Greenpeace is currently working to expose the impacts of illegal logging in the two largest tropical rainforests in the world: those in the Amazon region of South America and the Congo Basin area of Africa, where many valuable wood species are logged to make wood products for export. Greenpeace was indicted as an organization by the U.S. government in July 2003 for a peaceful protest undertaken in April 2002, in which activists boarded a ship bound for Miami that had illegal Brazilian mahogany onboard. The unprecedented federal prosecution against Greenpeace was eventually dismissed.
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