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President Bush's Initiative on Illegal Logging Holds Important Promise for the World's Forests

Washington, D.C. - U.S. State Department Secretary Colin Powell was joined today by World Wildlife Fund President Kathryn Fuller as he announced a global initiative to help stop illegal logging. According to Secretary Powell, the initiative will assist developing countries reduce illegal logging and address corruption in the forest sector. WWF praised the initiative and encouraged the administration to follow it up with funding and agency support needed to implement a truly comprehensive, multi-year approach.

"Secretary Powell has outlined a comprehensive approach to the serious problem of illegal logging. We commend him and the administration for their leadership and initiative on this tough, complex issue. Having long battled illegal logging around the world, we at WWF know that success will require significant added resources. A problem entrenched and so pervasive can't be fixed without investment - of funds, manpower, and time," said Fuller.

According to a June 2002 WWF report, The Timber Footprint of the G8 and China, illegal logging and the trade in illegal timber and wood-based products is known to occur in more than 70 countries. The report also documents that loss of forest resources directly affects the livelihood of 90 percent of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty. Another WWF report, released in March 2003 and entitled, Elephant Forests on Sale, found that the tropical lowland forests in Sumatra, Indonesia which harbor the world's highest levels of plant diversity and beleaguered elephants and tigers, are disappearing rapidly as industrial clearcutting for pulp mills exceeds twice the legal supply. The World Bank has estimated that the loss of revenue to producer and consumer governments due to illegal logging is US $5 billion annually, with an additional US $10 billion lost to the economies of producing countries.

The initiative announced today by Secretary Powell incorporates a number of programs developed by WWF in partnership with private sector leaders and U.S. Agency for International Development, including the use of market forces to encourage responsible forest management and discourage trade in illegally harvested products; use improved forestry practices in developing countries; and promote forest sector reforms. WWF has been working to conserve forests for over 40 years and has focussed for over a decade to reduce illegal logging in Asia, the Congo Basin, and the Amazon Basin.

For example, an alliance including the U.S. Agency for International Development, Metafore, WWF, Forest Trends and the U.S. Forest Service is strengthening the markets for products from well-managed forests and reducing illegal logging. With support from partners including WWF and The Home Depot, a leader in responsible purchasing policy, the Tropical Forest Foundation, dedicated to promoting sustainable tropical forest management, will soon bring to the U.S. the first shipment of wall paneling from Indonesia independently verified as legal.

"If this partnership joining the administration, business and NGOs succeeds as we all intend in the years ahead in reducing illegal logging and shaping global markets for forest products, new benefits will accrue to forests, wildlife and economies around the world," said Fuller.