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Timber industry teams with greens on new anti-illegal logging bill

Greens team with timber industry on new anti-illegal logging bill

Greens team with timber industry on new anti-illegal logging bill
Rhett Butler,
March 15, 2007

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill to ban the use of illegally-harvested timber and wood products. Led by Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Robert Wexler (D-FL), and Jerry Weller (R-IL) the legislation would make it a crime to import, export, possess, purchase or sell illicit timber.

“Illegal logging is a problem that crosses national boundaries to affect communities, companies, and ecosystems alike,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “This legislation would level the playing field for U.S. industry, not create new obstacles. We see an extraordinary opportunity for common ground here, and we believe this legislation is a solution that benefits everyone.”

“Not only will this bill protect the world’s most vulnerable forests, it will also help those nations that are aggressively working to curb illegal logging within their own borders,” said Rep. Wexler. “By reducing the demand for illegally logged timber we will provide a great boost in the fight against corruption, help stem human rights abuses, and limit the environmental degradation that accompanies illegal logging. The bill will also provide a significant boost to U.S. industry that is forced to compete with these illegal imports.”

Logging in the Central African country of Gabon. Photos by Rhett A. Butler.

“Illegal logging not only destroys rainforests and wildlife habitat but it destroys communities,” said Rep. Weller. “Criminal elements lay waste to rural areas of many undeveloped countries, destroying the economic future of these areas as well as changing the area’s climate. We must work together in a global effort to close the door to the marketplace for products made from illegal logging.”

Illegal logging is estimated to cost the U.S. timber industry $960 million to $1.16 billion per year in lost sales. Globally about $23 billion worth of forest products are produced from illegally harvested timber, of which $5 billion is traded internationally according to a 2005 report published by Seneca Creek Associates and Wood Resources Institute. Much of the illegal timber that reaches the United States comes from Indonesia and the Amazon rainforest.

Support for the legislation has been widespread. Pressure has come from both the domestic logging industry and green groups which, for a change, are on the same side of an environmental issue. Lawmakers said the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Rainforest Alliance, United Steelworkers, and Wood Flooring International have all pledged support for the bill.

“Currently, international timber smuggling syndicates are making the U.S. consumer an unwitting accomplice to brazen corruption, violence, and natural resource theft,” said Alexander von Bismarck, Campaigns Director of EIA, a non-profit organization investigating and exposing crimes against wildlife and the environment. “The Legal Timber Protection Act will be a critical tool to allow developing countries to take control of their natural resources and manage them more effectively.”

This article quotes from a news release from Congressman Earl Blumenauer and uses information from past articles.

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