In a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Representative Dan Benishek (R-MI) urged increased funding levels for critical measures that combat the illegal timber trade, which drains $1 billion a year from American producers. The bipartisan letter to Director of OMB Sylvia Mathews Burwell requests increased funding in the FY 2015 budget for the implementation and enforcement of the 2008 Lacey Act amendments, which have been the primary tool in the effort to eliminate illegally-sourced timber and wood products from U.S. markets.
"Cheap wood stolen from other countries and sold in the United States undercuts domestic producers of hardwood flooring, plywood, furniture, and other products to the tune of $1 billion per year, costing hard-working American's their jobs," DeFazio and Benishek wrote. "Providing increased funding in the FY2015 budget will ensure the continued implementation and enforcement of the Lacey Act and benefit responsible American producers by curbing the importation and sale of illegally-sourced timber and wood products,".
The 2008 Lacey Act amendments have already helped in shifting the trade balance for U.S. forest products from a $20.3 billion deficit in 2006 to a $600 million surplus in 2010.
In addition to the letter's concerns about funding, DeFazio has cautioned that a number of bills intended to weaken efforts to prevent the illegal logging trade could appear before the Natural Resources Committee this year. Two Republican bills, H.R. 3280 and H.R. 3324, would gut the Lacey Act and make it easier for cheap, illegal wood products to flood U.S. markets and undercut American companies.
"American manufacturers can't compete when the deck is unfairly stacked against them. We cannot roll back the critical economic and environmental protections in the Lacey Act. Gutting this law would cost jobs and infrastructure, and devastate rural communities already on the brink of financial disaster. I will fight any efforts to allow the import of illegally harvested timber," said DeFazio.
After an investigation of Gibson Guitar Corporation for importing illegal timber, attempts to gut the Lacey Act were met with stiff resistance from conservation groups and domestic timber interests during the 112th Congress. Gibson subsequently admitted to criminal misconduct in importing illegal rosewood from Madagascar, and was ordered to pay a hefty fine and overhaul its chain of custody procedures.
A copy of the letter is pasted below:
The Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Director Burwell,
We write today to thank you for your continued commitment to curbing illegal logging and eliminating illegally-sourced timber and wood products from U.S. markets, and to urge you to recommend increased funding in the FY2015 budget to implement and enforce the 2008 Amendments to the Lacey Act. The United Nations Environmental Programme estimates the value of the worldwide illegal timber trade at $100 billion annually. Such illegal business has been linked by multiple sources to other illicit activities around the globe. In addition, cheap wood stolen from other countries and sold in the United States undercuts domestic producers of hardwood flooring, plywood, furniture, and other products to the tune of $1 billion per year, costing hard-working Americans their jobs.
Building upon the progress made to date in the implementation and enforcement of the 2008 Lacey Act amendments will require sufficient funding in the FY2015 budget. This modest investment will yield a massive return to our domestic timber producers. Even at current funding levels, the 2008 Lacey Act amendments have helped in shifting the trade balance for U.S. forest products from a $20.3 billion deficit in 2006 to a $600 million surplus in 2010.
Specifically, effective implementation and enforcement of the Lacey Act will require additional funding within the FY2015 budget to:
Bolster the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's ability to oversee the plant products import declaration process and build an efficient electronic database for monitoring and enforcement.
Increase international outreach and training conducted by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State to explain Lacey Act requirements and implications for businesses.
Further the domestic law enforcement and international capacity building operations of the U.S. Department of Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service to deter bad actors at home and abroad from marketing illegal timber in the United States.
Providing increased funding in the FY2015 budget will ensure the continued implementation and enforcement of the Lacey Act and benefit responsible American producers by curbing the importation and sale of illegally-sourced timber and wood products. It will also improve our environment and make the world a safer place. Thank for your consideration of our request, and we look forward to working together throughout the FY2015 budget and appropriations process.
Peter DeFazio Dan Benishek, M.D.
Ranking Member Member of Congress
Committee on Natural Resources