Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) “Combat Illegal Logging Act”

Posted on November 6, 2007

Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Oregon. He has pursued the illegal logging issue in his usual way, with a lot of persistence and in a bipartisan way as well. If he has not already done so, I will ask unanimous consent to list the 22 cosponsors of the Combat Illegal Logging Act he has helped to recruit, and I thank him for including me as a part of this bill. It is important to the great Northwest and it is important to the Southeast, where we have large paper companies, but it is also important to conservation and to the rule of law in our country. The Senator from Oregon made a point that is maybe the central point here when he compared our efforts to stop illegal logging to our efforts to stop the bringing of illegal drugs into the United States. We all know the tremendous amount of effort we go to, for example, to keep cocaine out of the United States. We send millions of dollars to Colombia and to other countries and we try to stop that. But the real problem we have is we are a big, rich country, and there is a big demand for cocaine here. So no matter what we do in the other countries, the cocaine still keeps coming in, and the same with other illegal drugs. Here we have a chance to make a much bigger difference than we can with illegal drugs. We still are creating the demand problem. This is a country that accounts for 25 percent of all the wealth in the world. It is a country that perhaps buys a huge volume of illegal timber from around the world. Well, we can stop that. This is not a drug addiction, this is a business practice, and it is a practice we can stop according to the laws of this country. When we stop it, we will make an enormous difference for our country and for the other countries. Let us be absolutely clear. We are talking primarily about the laws of other countries. We are not talking about imposing American laws on other countries. We are simply saying if you violate the laws of any other country in the world, you can't bring those logs into the United States without violating a criminal law here. If this big economy says that to the world, we will make a dramatic difference in illegal logging. As the Senator from Oregon said, it is an estimated $1 billion a year in depressed prices and reduced exports. It depresses prices $500 million to $700 million annually. It means the people who play by the rules in the United States are having money taken from them by criminals who don't play by the rules in other countries, with the rules set by other countries; not by us, by other countries. There are other ancillary benefits -- climate change, for example. There is a lot of talk about that here in the Senate. We are all looking for ways to deal with that. It may be expensive to deal with, it may be inconvenient to deal with, but some estimates are that 20 percent of climate change is caused by deforestation. According to the World Bank, illegal logging accounts for 10 percent, or $15 billion, of the world timber trade. So if we are able to slow down illegal logging in other countries, we will be making an inexpensive contribution, from the American taxpayers' point of view, to dealing with climate change, and at the same time we will be putting money in the pockets of those who work in this country in the timber and timber products business. This is a rare intersection of the rule of law, of good conservation practices, and of keeping jobs in the United States. I salute the Senator from Oregon for his leadership, and with his permission I wish to include, following both our remarks, the "Dear Colleague" letter which he and I sent to our colleagues, resulting so far in 22 Members of the Senate cosponsoring the Combat Illegal Logging Act of 2007. The value of this letter is to highlight the organizations endorsing the bill, ranging from the American Forest & Paper Association, to Defenders of Wildlife, to the Friends of the Earth. That is pretty good company in which to be. Again, I thank the Senator from Oregon. I hope very much that the Senate will agree to this amendment. It may seem like a small step, but it will put money in the pockets of American workers. It will help with climate change. It will uphold the rule of law in our country.