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The Lacey Act - Leading the Fight Against Illegal Logging

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A Siberian tiger cub.

From furniture to paper and pencils, wood products are a part of our everyday lives. Though wood products are now more than ever coming from sustainable sources, up to 30 percent of wood traded internationally has been harvested illegally. Not only does illegal logging damage the environment, it disrupts our climate, hurts communities, and threatens American jobs.

Thankfully, with a landmark law called the Lacey Act, the United States is helping lead the fight against illegal logging. To get a snapshot of the costs of illegal logging and how you can help, take a look at our new webpage.

Deforestation, which is driven in part by illegal logging, is one of the largest sources of climate-disrupting pollution. Each year deforestation accounts for roughly 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide, around 17 percent of global climate-disrupting pollution. Further, illegal logging threatens valuable habitat for endangered animals and plants. A great report from the Environmental Investigation Agency details how illegal logging in the Russian Far East, allegedly to supply the flooring giant Lumber Liquidators, is threatening the last 450 Siberian tigers in the wild.

Illegal logging also threatens communities that live in and around forests. The illegal harvesting and removal of timber deprives countries of roughly $15 billion a year in tax revenue. Instead of funding public improvements that benefit communities, revenue from illegal logging funds underground crime.

Trade in illegally harvested timber threatens American jobs by driving down the price of wood products. Cheaper wood might sound good, but it actually places a huge burden on American companies. In fact, it’s estimated that lower prices due to the trade of illegally harvested wood products ends up costing U.S. companies $1 billion annually.

Thankfully, the United States has taken the lead in fighting the trade of illegally harvested wood. In 2008, the U.S. Congress amended the Lacey Act to ban the import of illegally harvested wood. Now, companies that import wood products must identify the species and origin of their products. Violators of the law face fines and jail time. Led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal government has opened investigations into companies that are alleged to knowingly import illegally harvested timber.

Since its amendment, the Lacey Act has shown a strong track record of requiring companies to identify the source of imported wood, both leading to more sustainable supply chains and helping decrease illegal logging. Currently, opponents of the Lacey Act are trying to weaken this landmark law. To help ensure the U.S. continues to lead in the fight against illegal logging and climate disruption, tell the President and Congress to fully enforce the Lacey Act!

--Jesse Prentice-Dunn, Representative, Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program

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