A complex and pervasive global problem, illegal logging includes such practices as logging protected tree species, logging in protected areas or outside concession boundaries, logging without authorization, obtaining concessions through bribes, and extracting more timber than authorized. In addition, some countries import and process illegally-obtained wood, a portion of which may be exported to the U.S. Consequently, the timber industry in the U.S., as well as legal producers overseas, can find it difficult to compete with the resulting artificially low-priced timber. The World Bank estimates that illegal logging costs $30 – 100 billion annually in lost revenue for governments worldwide. In many countries where illegal logging exists, it is associated with weak law enforcement and prosecution, corruption, collusion, money laundering, illegal arms sales and even regional conflict.
The United States has been a leader in promoting legal timber and sustainable forest management, and in drawing attention to the economic and environmental consequences of illegal logging and associated trade. Recent amendments to the U.S. Lacey Act are a key tool in this effort. Initially enacted in 1900, the Lacey Act is the United States’ oldest wildlife protection statute and was amended in 2008 to expand its protection to a broader range of plants and plant products. The Lacey Act now makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce plants, including timber species, taken in violation of the laws of the United States, a U.S. State or Indian tribe, or foreign laws. This includes making or submitting any false record or false identification of imported plant material, including timber.
Since 2008, the U.S. Forest Service has worked in close coordination with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), The Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (DoS/OES), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the US Trade Representative (USTR), and other USG agencies to engage foreign governments, the private sector, multi-lateral organizations, NGOs, and other stakeholders to address a full range of issues related to promoting legal forest product harvesting and trade.