IWPA Responds to Combat Illegal Logging Act of 2007:
"Stop Illegal Logging at its Source"

The International Wood Products Association (IWPA) executive vice president Brent McClendon has issued a statement in response to introduction of the Combat Illegal Logging Act of 2007 by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). The legislation was introduced to the Senate by Wyden on August 1, 2007, and would amend a long-standing wildlife trafficking statute, the U.S. Lacey Act, to prohibit the import, sale or trade in illegally-harvested wood and wood products.

McClendon states the following:

"The IWPA applauds all initiatives that can help eliminate illegal logging overseas. We share Senator Ron Wyden's commitment to protecting the world's forests from illegal logging.

The unfortunate reality is that the greatest threat to the world's forests is the wide-scale conversion of forested land for soybeans, ethanol and other agriculture and ranching pursuits. Creating new laws that make U.S. family businesses responsible for law enforcement in foreign countries, while at the same time not giving these companies any way to protect themselves against U.S. government prosecution, does nothing to stop this forest destruction.

Importers embrace a wide range of methods including certification and independent verification to confirm that the material they purchase comes from a legal source. Yet it is ultimately up to the governments in the countries of export to determine legality. Developing countries, where most of the world's great forests are located, need financial aid and technical assistance to further their enforcement and prosecution efforts. The 'Combat Illegal Logging Act of 2007' does not provide any such assistance and instead deputizes U.S. companies to enforce foreign laws.

Senator Wyden's legislation holds U.S. businesses and their customers personally responsible and subjects them to civil and criminal punishment for any illegal activity that occurs overseas in forests, sawmills, in transportation and through foreign ports thousands miles away from their U.S. business. All of this burden would come without any way for legal importers to protect themselves from this extended liability.

The legislation as introduced also places an undue burden on U.S. Customs officials at a time when security and Customs personnel are already stretched beyond their means dealing with heightened fears of terrorism at our nation's ports.

The best place to stop illegal logging is at its source; and other U.S. initiatives, such as the FTA with Peru and a U.S. Government Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia have been designed to do just this. Progress is being made. Let us give these positive initiatives a chance to work.

Shifting the battle lines to courtrooms only results in high costs and wasted resources not positive improvements on the ground.

IWPA is the only trade association representing the imported wood products industry and its supply chain in the United States. IWPA's 220 members condemn illegal logging and continue to work diligently at assuring the legality of imported wood products."

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