Earlier this month, environmental activists from Liberia and Peru came to the U.S. to share first-hand accounts of illegal logging, the destruction it brings to their communities and forests, and what we can do to bring the harmful practice to a halt.
Speaking at a series of lectures in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, including Senate and House briefings on Capitol Hill, Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor of Liberia and Julia Urrunaga of Peru highlighted the Lacey Act, a historic piece of U.S. legislation and the most effective tool we have to stop illegal logging and associated trade.
Siakor is a local hero and a global award-winning figure. In 2006, he received a Goldman Prize, the world’s largest prize honoring environmental activists, after risking his life to expose that Liberian
President Charles Taylor used proceeds from illegal logging to fund civil war. As founder of the Sustainable Development Institute in Liberia, he still works to rally grassroots activists to empower communities and expose corrupt environmental practices.
Julia Urrunaga, Peru Director for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), also works to bring forest crime to the light of day. In Peru, she helps to give voice to locals and promote policies that help eliminate illegally sourced timber and forest products from global markets. After years of investigation, Urrunaga and EIA released “The Laundering Machine,” a report uncovering illegal logging and timber laundering throughout the Peruvian Amazon.
Across the world, criminals are taking advantage of otherwise unprotected forests with illegal logging, engaging in illicit activities along the way. The illegal logging process begins when companies and crime syndicates cut trees without authorization, launder them with counterfeit or mismatched permits, and send them to unsafe sawmills. Eventually, the timber or wood products are then shipped, with none the wiser as to where it came from or what was sacrificed to make your coffee table.