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07/23/2012

New Legislation Threatens American Jobs and Forests

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If there’s one thing the Sierra Club and the timber industry can agree on, it’s that our natural resources have precious value. The U.S. forest products industry employs nearly 900,000 men and women and produces approximately $175 billion in products annually. But the value of our forests extends far beyond monetary value; forests also help regulate the global climate and are home to hundreds of indigenous communities that depend on the forests for physical and cultural survival. And while some wish to exploit the precious value of our forests, the century-old Lacey Act has helped protect our forests and workers from illegal logging. 

But, this vital protection is under attack by Representatives Blackburn (TN), Bono-Mack (CA), and Cooper (TN) who want to gut the Lacey Act with a new bill, H.R. 3210.  If they are successful, this bill would only benefit illegal loggers and allow them to loot our forests with little accountability or repercussions.

The Lacey Act supports a healthy American economy and jobs by preventing the import of illegal wood and wood products that would undercut the existing American wood products industry and the jobs it creates. The Lacey Act made the U.S. a global leader in protecting valuable forests from illegal interstate and international trafficking.  With the 2008 amendments to the Act, the U.S. became the first country to ban illegal trade of plants, timber, and wood products.  Because the U.S. is the largest wood products consumer, the ban and its penalty system were a major step toward stopping illegal logging. In part because of the Lacey Act, illegal logging has been reduced by 20 to 30 percent worldwide since 2002, thereby eliminating billions of tons of carbon emissions.  

H.R. 3210 would allow manufacturers to keep stolen wood, dismantling one of the Lacey Act’s most powerful deterrents to importing illegal wood.  It would also limit the species and country-of-origin declaration requirements to solid wood, thereby excluding pulp, paper, paperboard and related products which make up the largest portion of imports covered under the Lacey Act amendments. 

With these provisions, this anti-forestry bill would severely undermine efforts to stop illegal logging and trade and hurt our environment, the American economy, and American jobs. 

According to World Bank estimates, governments and businesses worldwide suffer more than $10 billion in lost revenue each year due to illegal logging, and the U.S. alone loses approximately $1 billion.  One can only imagine how many more billions H.R. 3210 would cost the American economy, not to mention the cost incurred on global ecology.

Members of Congress will soon decide whether or not to wipe out the progress made in combatting illegal logging.  Tell Congress to quit playing politics with the environment and jobs and get serious about preserving the world’s forests.  Take action now and send a message urging your representative to join us in opposing H.R. 3210.  

 -- by Ilana Solomon

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