Weekly Column of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander for the week of January 13, 2008

"One Small Way to Protect the Environment and Keep Our Jobs at the Same Time”

Posted on January 13, 2008

Last month, the Senate passed an important piece of legislation that will help keep jobs in the United States and protect the great American outdoors at the same time. The legislation, the Combat Illegal Logging Act, will curtail illegal logging while also protecting the nation’s timber industry and its workers. This will help lessen the global environmental impact of deforestation. This issue is important not only in the Northwest where logging is prevalent, but also in Southeastern states with large forests, like Tennessee. The Combat Illegal Logging Act 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. 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. The bill rewards U.S. producers – like those in the Southeast where we have large paper companies – for lumber harvesting the right way. Illegal logging costs the U.S. forest products industry an estimated $1 billion per year in depressed prices and reduced exports. American manufacturers should not be forced to compete with the low-priced wood and wood products being harvested from illegal logging in other countries. An amendment based on the Combat Illegal Logging Act was included in the Farm Bill that passed the Senate last month by a vote of 79 to 14. As the lead Republican cosponsor of both measures, I joined U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), in advancing this important measure. Stopping deforestation will also help with other challenges -- climate change, for example. 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. Illegal logging causes severe environmental damage throughout the world, with 18 percent of climate change attributed to deforestation according to a study on climate change commissioned by the British government. 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 into the pockets of those who work in this country in the timber and timber products business. I would like to note 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. This is a rare intersection of the rule of law, of good conservation practices, and of keeping jobs in the United States. ###