July 25th, 2012 by

Credit: D H Wright/Flickr

The Lacey Act was introduced more than a century ago and was the first piece of federal legislation to protect against wildlife trafficking.

Today, because of a 2008 amendment, the Lacey Act is primarily used to protect against importing non-native plant species and illegal logging practices. This act has been an important part of protecting not only the American wood-product industry and domestic forestry jobs from being undercut by illegally imported goods, but also promoting the sustainable use of domestic trees over the illegal logging practices that lead to global deforestation. In the next week, a House floor vote could change all that.

House leadership has announced that H.R. 3210, the “Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness” or RELIEF Act, will be coming up for a full House vote in the next week. The RELIEF Act would undermine efforts to prevent illegal logging and trading by:

  • Eliminating the requirement for non-solid wood products manufacturers (i.e. paper products makers) to know their wood source.
  • Establishing a fixed penalty for first-time offenders regardless of the volume of or value of the illegal product – instead of using a scale with higher penalties for more severe offenses.
  • Eliminating the requirement for manufacturers to turn over goods that have been proven to be stolen.

These components of the RELIEF Act take away from the measures and punishments in the Lacey Act that deter illegal practices, leaving less incentive to stay away from them.

Dave Matthews is one of the many musicians that support the Lacey Act. Credit: chris friese/Flickr

Since the 2008 amendment that included the protection of timber and wood products, illegal logging is slowly on the decline as new practices become more commonplace. But even with the Lacey Act in place, these illegal practices still occur and cost the American wood products industry around $1 billion annually. Passing the RELIEF Act would only exacerbate this figure.

There is hope though. The RELIEF Act may have passed the House Natural Resources Committee, but several environmental groups, the timber industry, labor unions and even musicians are already speaking out against this bill. You too can take action by telling your representative to vote NO on the RELIEF Act by filling out and sending advocacy letters through NRDC or Sierra Club. I hope that representatives will hear this message loud and clear before the bill comes up for a vote.