FORESTS:

Wyden, Alexander want timber provision added to farm bill

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) want to use the farm bill to move legislation designed to stem the tide of illegal timber imports.

The senators are seeking to add their bill, S. 1930, as an amendment, the senators said on the floor yesterday.

The bill would extend the Lacey Act, a 1900 law prohibiting trade in illegally taken fish and wildlife to plants. It would ban the import, export or sale of timber illegally sold in violation of a foreign or domestic law or an international environmental treaty.

To comply with the Lacey Act, companies would have to demonstrate they "took due care" to ensure they are not using illegal timber. Timber and wood-product companies that use certified sustainable practices could benefit because they could theoretically show the public and federal government they are using wood from legitimate sustainable sources, though the bill would not require certification.

The American Forest & Paper Association supports S. 1930, along with the Sustainable Furniture Council, National Hardwood Lumber Association, Hardwood Federation, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and environmental groups. An AF&PA spokesman said the group supports attaching the illegal timber language to the farm bill.

On the House side, the Natural Resources Committee is scheduled today to mark up a similar bill from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), H.R. 1497, with a substitute amendment that would bring it in line with the Senate proposal.

The Senate bill includes specific descriptions of the underlying violations of the Lacey Act, such as harvesting a tree from a national park or nonpayment of stumpage fees. A second difference from the House bill seeks to specify the documentation timber importers need to ensure compliance rather than leave that question to an unspecified regulatory process.

At a hearing last month, the Bush administration did not support the bill but endorsed the concept of using the Lacey Act to address the issue of illegal timber imports, saying existing laws are insufficient to prosecute offenders.

U.S. timber companies are increasingly losing market share due to depressed prices and loss of export markets, partially because of illegal harvests and manufacturing in countries such as Indonesia, Honduras, Peru and China.

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