U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., today said Senate passage of legislation to curtail illegal logging is an important step towards protecting the nation’s timber industry and its workers while lessening the global environmental impact of deforestation.
“This legislation says you can’t bring logs into the United States if you illegally harvested the timber, and when this big economy says that to the world, we should make a dramatic difference in illegal logging,” Alexander said. “This bill rewards U.S. producers – like those in the Southeast where we have large paper companies – for harvesting the right way.”
An amendment based on the Combat Illegal Logging Act (S. 1930), cosponsored by Alexander, was included in the Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) that passed the Senate last month by a vote of 79 to 14. Alexander was the lead Republican cosponsor of both S. 1930 and the amendment to the Farm Bill, joining U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in introducing the legislation last August to halt the trade of illegal timber and timber products.
The legislation would expand the Lacey Act – which currently regulates trade in fish, wildlife, and certain plants – to prohibit the import, sale or trade of illegally-harvested wood and wood products.
Noting that illegal logging costs the U.S. forest products industry an estimated $1 billion per year in depressed prices and reduced exports, Alexander said American manufacturers should not be forced to compete with the low-priced wood and wood products being harvested from illegal logging in other countries.
Alexander also said illegal logging causes severe environmental damage throughout the world, with 20 percent of climate change attributed to deforestation.
“According to the World Bank, illegal logging accounts for 10 percent, or $156 billion, of the world timber trade,” Alexander said. “So if we are able to slow down illegal logging in other countries, we will be making a contribution to dealing with climate change while at the same time putting money in the pockets of those Americans who work in the timber industry.”
Alexander noted that the legislation enjoyed the support of a strong coalition of industry, environmental, conservation and labor groups – including the Memphis-based National Hardwood Lumber Association – as well as the following:
American Forest & Paper Association
Center for International Environmental Law
Defenders of Wildlife
Environmental Investigation Agency
Friends of the Earth
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
National Association of Home Builders
Natural Resources Defense Council
Rainforest Action Network
Society of American Foresters
Sustainable Furniture Council
The Nature Conservancy
Tropical Forest Trust
Wildlife Conservation Society
World Wildlife Fund
The Farm Bill now moves to a conference committee to work out differences between Senate and House versions of the legislation. The House-passed version of the Farm Bill did not include comparable language.