EIA report says U.S.' "no questions asked" imports policy driving global illegal logging trade; timber industry, environmental groups team up to push for tighter laws for wood products

WASHINGTON , October 16, 2007 (press release) – The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has today released a new report on the global illegal logging crisis charging that the U.S.'s current 'no questions asked' imports policy is driving the illegal timber trade worldwide. The report finds that an estimated 10% -- or $3.8 billion worth -- of U.S. wood products imports derived from illegally logged timber enters the U.S. each year. This trade stream threatens not only fragile forests and impoverished communities around the globe, but also the bottom line of the nation's legal timber industry.

U.S. lawmakers and logging industry representatives are taking the issue seriously. In a rare show of bipartisan eco-solidarity, 28 organizations representing the timber industry, environmental community and organized labor, have teamed up to push for new legislation that would tighten U.S. import laws for wood products. Currently, the U.S. government has no authority to take enforcement action against the importation of illegally logged wood products.

Today, a key hearing in the House of Representatives will consider legislation introduced by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Jerry Weller, R-Ill., and Robert Wexler, D-Fla.

Testimony will be given by Alexander von Bismarck, EIA Executive Director; Eileen Sobeck, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Environmental Crimes and Land Acquisition of the U.S. Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division; Ann Wrobleski, Vice President of Public Affairs for International Paper and representing the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA); and Victor Barringer, CEO of Coastal Lumber Company and representing the Hardwood Federation.

"The role that U.S. demand for wood products has in aiding and abetting forest crime is undeniable," said Alexander von Bismarck, Executive Director for EIA. "One only needs to look at the window from November 2004 to November 2006 when the U.S. imported over 1,500 shipments of high-risk Indonesian sawn timber in spite of that country's sawn timber export ban, as an example."

"Strong leadership is now critically needed by U.S. lawmakers to combat this problem," added von Bismarck. "This legislation will be particularly effective because it channels the power of the U.S. market to support countries that are desperately trying to fight timber trafficking criminals andimprove governance in their forest sectors."

EIA anticipates that new legislation in the U.S. will induce the European Union to follow with similar legislation of its own, creating a global tipping point in efforts to combat this global problem.

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