2008 Lacey Act Amendment Successful in Reducing U.S. Imports of Illegally Logged Wood

by Zoё Hoyle, SRS Science Delivery Group
These illegal logs were seized in transit and are stored at district police offices, Riau, Indonesia. Photo courtesy of CIFOR.

Illegal logs seized in transit in Indonesia. Photo courtesy of CIFOR.

Recently published research by U.S. Forest Service economist Jeff Prestemon supports the contention that the 2008 Lacey Act Amendment reduced the supply of illegally harvested wood from South America and Asia available for export to the United States.

Using monthly import data from 1989 to 2013, Prestemon, project leader of the Forest Service Southern Research Station Forest Economics and Policy unit, applied alternative statistical approaches to evaluate the effects of the 2008 amendment. The Journal of Forest Policy and Economics recently published the results online.

“There has been growing distress around the world about the negative effects of illegal fiber sourcing (including logging) on forests, people, wildlife, and the rule of law in countries suspected of producing such wood in large quantities,” said Prestemon. “In the U.S. and elsewhere, timber growers and wood product manufacturers have been concerned about the effects of illegal logging on their market prices and market shares, in both domestic and foreign markets.”

The Lacey Act is a U.S. wildlife protection and anti-trafficking statute that makes it a crime to import onto U.S. territory or to transport across any state line within the U.S. or its territories any illegally obtained plant or animal species or product made with such plants or animals. The original Lacey Act of 1900 focused on wildlife, with later amendments expanding to plants, including trees and products made from wood.

The Lacey Act Amendment of 2008 was enacted to reduce the global demand for illegally obtained timber products, and includes for the first time any tree species illegally obtained in the country of origin and any product (such as wood, paper, or pulp) containing illegally obtained tree material.

“Although the U.S. consumes a relatively small share of wood from countries suspected of having high rates of illegal wood production, having such material entering global markets affects U.S. producers by depressing wood prices globally,” said Prestemon. “With the Lacey Act Amendment of 2008, the U.S. sought to set an example of how importing countries could help discourage illegal logging, with the hope that others would enact similar policies.”

In 2010 the European Union enacted similar legislation that bans the import of illegally sourced fiber, and other wood product importing countries are either contemplating or are now implementing similar trade measures. “It is important to understand whether such measures make a difference,” Prestemon said.

The easiest way to find out if the Lacey Act Amendment reduced imports of illegally logged wood is to measure the amount of illegally logged products entering the U.S., but so far government officials are unable to physically detect illegal materials with the tools available to them.

Prestemon used other methods—statistical intervention models—some fairly simple, others quite complex, to tease out the effect of the amendment. The methods took into account many factors that might have affected U.S. imports, including the economic downturn, exchange rates, growth in China’s economy, and the effects of laws and policies in suspected source countries.

Prestemon found that the prices of lumber and hardwood plywood imports into the U.S. from suspected illegal wood fiber source countries have increased and their quantities have decreased since the enactment of the 2008 Lacey Act Amendment, indicating a decrease in export supply in these countries. “These findings are evidence that the amendment has met at least some of its advocates’ objectives,” said Prestemon.

Prestemon cautions that though his research may have successfully quantified the effects of the amendment on U.S. imports, two other avenues need study before we can judge the amendment as a complete success in reducing illegal fiber sourcing.

“First and foremost we need to understand to what extent illegal producers have diverted their illegally sourced fiber exports away from the U.S. and toward countries that don’t have such trade measures,” said Prestemon. “Second, we need to look at possible substitutions within countries suspected of illegal sourcing, where producers decide to only export legal fiber but still illegally produce, diverting those products toward domestic consumers in their own markets.”

“Both of these shifts in response to trade measures are a form of policy ‘leakage,’ and we need to understand them in order to design the most effective strategies to limit illegal sourcing in suspected countries.”

Access the full text of the article.

For more information, email Jeff Prestemon at jprestemon@fs.fed.us.

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Posted in Economics & Policy, Forest Products, Threats

ForWarn Chosen for National Climate Resilience Toolkit Launched for White House

by Sarah Workman, Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center
Image from ForWarn: tracking hail damage in the Northeast. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Image from ForWarn: tracking hail damage in the Northeast. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

ForWarn, the satellite-based forest disturbance monitoring system developed by the U.S. Forest Service’s Eastern Forest and Western Wildland Threat Assessment Centers was selected as one of the “top 25” tools included in the  U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit  launched on November 17th for the White House by an interagency team that included members from the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Interior, NOAA, and others.

The Toolkit “provides resources and a framework for understanding and addressing the climate issues that impact people and their communities.” Tools like ForWarn, Beach-fx, CropScape and others are available in the Toolkit to help manage climate-related risks and opportunities, and to help guide communities in building resilience to extreme events.

The Forest Service’s Eastern Forest and Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Centers developed ForWarn  to help natural resource managers rapidly detect, identify, and respond to unexpected changes in the nation’s forests using web-based tools.

As a part of the strategic components for a National Early Warning System, ForWarn provides a near-real-time national overview of vegetation greenness to help detect changes across landscapes impacted by insects, diseases, wildfires, extreme weather, or other natural or human-caused events.

Developed in response to the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003, ForWarn is maintained by the Threat Assessment Centers in partnership with NASA Stennis Space Center, the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Geological Survey, and the University of North Carolina Asheville’s National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center.

ForWarn consists of a set of inter-related products including near-real-time forest change maps, an archive of past change maps, seasonal vegetation phenology maps, and derived map products from these efforts. ForWarn users can explore, save, and share recent and archived forest change maps to support collaborative projects and analyses.

Detection and early warning of regionally evident disturbances is an important activity because forests provide societal, environmental, economic, and ecological benefits. For examples, read the case stories on the ForWarn website that highlight disturbances detected and tracked, such as damage from recent hurricanes, drought in Texas and neighboring states, or the loss of hemlock trees in Appalachian forests.

For more information, email Steve Norman at snorman@fs.fed.us

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Posted in Climate Change, Threats

New Partnership With Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Protects Natural and Cultural Resources

by Sarah Farmer, SRS Science Delivery Group
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is the only federally recognized tribe in North Carolina. The Tribe lives in the western part of the state, part of its traditional homelands. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is the only federally recognized tribe in North Carolina. The Tribe lives in the western part of the state, part of its traditional homelands. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

Climate change is upon us, and communities who use wild-harvested native plants for food, medicine, and cultural practices are identifying ways to protect their natural and cultural resources.

The need to prepare for further climate change in the future and mitigate its effects on natural resources in the Southern Appalachian region has led to a new partnership between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research StationNorth Carolina Arboretum Germplasm Repository, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Because American Indian communities are often place-based and natural-resource dependent, the impacts of changing climate and landscape patterns could limit their ability to gather and use resources as a community.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has developed a wealth of ethnobotanical knowledge over many generations. Protecting this cultural heritage – while recognizing that tribal knowledge is proprietary – is one of the goals of the partnership. The partners are also interested in integrating western and traditional ecological knowledge, and recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a framework for sharing information, monitoring, research, and resource management planning.

Through the partnership, seeds and other genetic information – collectively called germplasm – from culturally significant native plants will be collected and stored safely at the North Carolina Arboretum Germplasm Repository. Most seedbanks focus on agricultural crops like corn, wheat, and others, but the Arboretum focuses on ethnobotanicals native to the Southern Appalachians. Edible and medicinal plants like ramps, black cohosh, and sochan (which is also called green-headed coneflower) are some of the species whose seeds may be stored under the terms of the agreement.

Climate change could affect the timing and availability of these resources, and reservation boundaries mean that tribal members have limited options for off-reservation gathering or harvesting. By identifying and documenting traditional natural resources in the Southern Appalachians, the partnership aims to protect natural resources, as well as the Native American communities that rely on them.

For more information, email Monica Schwalbach at mschwalbach@fs.fed.us.

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Posted in Climate Change, Forest Products, Genetics, Non-Timber Forest Products