Keeping out illegal wood


It’s always difficult to be part of the proud U.S. timber industry and see substandard or questionable wood flood the market from overseas. Not to say that all foreign wood is bad, but there is certainly a strong market, unfortunately, for wood that does not pass the strict legal and environmental standards of American timber.

Voice of America, a news service owned by the U.S. government, just took a look at the illegal logging trade around the world, as well as efforts by U.S. officials to limit illegal wood imports here.

The numbers are sobering. In some countries, 60 to 80 percent of the wood is illegally logged. And 10 percent of the wood imported to the U.S. is illegal, creating a major black-market competitor for the timber professionals who follow all the rules.

And yet there are also some promising developments. In 2008, Congress amended an old law so that all wood products from illegal logging are banned from the U.S., and companies that break the law can be leveled with fines and jail time.

The new law is creating an incentive for U.S. and foreign companies to stay away from illegal wood, and there are also other initiatives, such as the new Forest Legality Alliance, designed to stem the tide in the black market.

In other news, the Tacoma News Tribune just published a positive but balanced editorial about the proposed biomass plant in Shelton, Wash. The piece says that nearby residents have some legitimate concerns but “some of the critics are making dubious claims about the plant’s effects.”