WASHINGTON, June 18, 2008 – The import, purchase, sale and transport of products made from illegally harvested wood will for the first time become a federal crime under legislation passed today by the U.S. Congress.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which lobbied strongly for the provision, said it will ban products made from illegally harvested wood and authorize U.S. enforcement agencies to prosecute illegal timber traffickers. To date, no U.S. laws have prevented illegally harvested wood from entering the domestic market and few regulatory mechanisms have existed to indicate to consumers whether specific wood products have been derived from legal, sustainable sources, said WWF.
The provision, which was originally introduced as a standalone bill in both the House and Senate, was included in a massive $300 billion dollar farm bill that received final approval as both the House and Senate voted today to override the President’s veto of the bill: the Senate by a vote of 80 to 14; the House by a vote of 317 to 109. With Congress’ override of the veto, the farm bill, including the prohibition against illegal timber imports, automatically becomes law.
“By banning the import of illegally harvested wood products, this measure will help level the playing field for U.S. companies that are committed to ensuring that their purchases of forest products support legal and responsible logging practices. Many of these companies are members of WWF's Global Forest & Trade Network,” said Bruce Cabarle, the program’s managing director.
The Global Forest & Trade Network is a WWF initiative to eliminate illegal logging and improve the management of valuable and threatened forests by facilitating trade links between companies committed to achieving and supporting responsible forestry.
“This legislation will have an enormous impact on saving fast-disappearing forests around the world because the law can now act strongly against the illegal trade in timber. It will also empower U.S. consumers to make better-informed choices that will directly benefit nature,” said Dr. Darron Collins, WWF’s managing director of the Amur-Heilong, a WWF priority area straddling the Russian Far East and China. Collins said Amur-Heilong has experienced a high rate of illegal logging which often winds up in U.S. markets in the form of flooring, furniture and other wood products.
“The illegal logging provision was supported by a broad coalition of industry, labor and environmental leaders and had strong, bi-partisan support in Congress which enabled it to be included in the farm bill without controversy,” said Jason Patlis, WWF vice president and managing director for U.S. government relations. “It is ironic that one the best policies contained in the farm bill has nothing to do with U.S. agriculture.” Patlis noted that WWF expressed disappointment with other farm bill provisions that, he said, underfunded conservation programs and did too little to conserve native grasslands.
WWF’s efforts focus on the protection, management, and restoration of the world's most important forests by identifying threats and developing solutions. WWF works internationally, regionally, and locally with a wide range of partners, combining fieldwork, science and policy to leverage markets in promoting forest conservation.