Illegal Logging Crackdown by the US

US trade in products containing illegally logged wood, which costs developing countries an estimated $15 billion a year in lost revenue, may soon be a thing of the past.

Prohibition on trade in illegally logged wood products was passed in May this year, and now US government officials have presented proposals which outline how the new law is to be implemented.

They focused on a phased-in approach for the requirement to declare the origin and species of the plant material contained in a wide variety of products.

Representatives from the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Interior and the Department of Justice were involved.

“By banning the import of illegally harvested wood products, this measure will help level the playing field for companies, such as those participants of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network, that are committed to ensuring that their purchases of forest products support legal and responsible logging practices,” said Bruce Cabarle, Director of WWF-US Forest Programme.

The Agencies announced that the enforcement of the declaration requirement will begin on April 1st, 2009 for plants, timber and solid wood products, to coincide with the availability of a web-based declaration system.

Other products of concern, such as furniture and paper, will be phased in subsequently over a two-year time frame.

At the meeting, the Department of Justice emphasized its intention to enforce these prohibitions, suggesting that it was no longer acceptable for wood purchasers to remain ignorant of the source of their material.

"We are very encouraged that importers, retailers and manufacturers have joined us in supporting practical steps to stop the importation of stolen wood," said Alexander von Bismarck, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

“This commitment by the U.S. government represents a historic breakthrough for international efforts to control deforestation and protect the global environment.”

Illegally logged wood also contributes to the 20 per cent of annual total greenhouse gas emissions caused by deforestation and has been shown to support organized crime around the world.

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