Sierra Club, USW Urge Regulators to Uphold Intent of Lacey Act

Landmark reforms were aimed at halting deforestation, illegal wood products

Contact:  Keith Romig, United Steelworkers 615-714-2704
              Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, 804-225-9113 x 102

Washington, D.C. (Nov. 3) -- The Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers (USW) today voiced concerns over a decision by regulators to grant special exemptions for pulp and paper from the Lacey Act reforms of 2008. 

These landmark reforms aim to protect the world’s forests and communities by halting the import and sale of illegally-sourced wood products in the U.S. Under the Lacey Act reforms importers must declare the country and harvest of origin for their products, an essential step to creating transparency in a previously unregulated market where US demand was driving deforestation around the world.

The concerns were submitted in joint comments to the Federal Register on Nov. 2.

“Fully incorporating all wood products, including pulp and paper, into the declaration requirement is essential if the Lacey Act’s potential is to be fully realized and global trade in illegally-sourced wood products is to decrease,” said Margrete Strand Rangnes, Director of the Sierra Club’s Labor, Workers' Rights and Trade Program.

Today’s action by the Sierra Club and USW follows a recent report by the bipartisan, multi-sector Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests. The report not only identified tropical deforestation as a threat to vital national interests, but also found that increasing international efforts to protect tropical forests is the most cost-effective way to achieve fast, large-scale reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

In the U.S., illegal logging makes it impossible for workers and companies to compete. Because illegal loggers do not pay fees to their government or pay the market price for the trees they cut, they are able to sell their products for less than legitimate timber companies.

“The USW has seen true devastation among our members as multiple plants have closed or reduced production, in large part because of imports from nations where illegal logging is a large part of the timber supply,” said Holly R. Hart, Legislative Director for the United Steelworkers (USW). 

According t the USW, the multiple plant closings and curtailments taken together have and will impact adversely many hundreds of USW members, including a very significant fraction of the workers remaining in the coated paper sector. There will be additional harm done to the communities in which these impacted facilities are located as the effects of the closings and curtailments ripple through local economies.

Around the world illegal logging harms communities, degrading drinking water supplies and breeding corruption and crime that often threaten the lives of citizens who want sustainable jobs and lasting protection for the natural legacy of their countries. Illegal timber syndicates are responsible for murdering and exploiting citizens in Honduras, Mexico, Brazil and other nations.

The Sierra Club and USW believe that a strong enforcement program for the Lacey Act, covering imports of wood, wood products, pulp, and paper, will allow our nation to significantly reduce deforestation around the world.

The Sierra Club and USW Federal Register comments are here.

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