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Lacey Act wins 2011 Future Policy award

New York—The United States’ prohibition on smuggling of illegally harvested wood has won silver in the 2011 Future Policy Awards as one of the world’s most inspiring and innovative forest policies.

The three policies most effectively contributing to the conservation and sustainable development of forests for current and future generations were honored by the World Future Council at U.N. Headquarters in New York.

Rwanda’s National Forest Policy claimed First, while the U.S. Lacey Act with its 2008 amendment and The Gambia’s Community Forest Policy shared the Silver Award.

The Environmental Investigation Agency’s executive director, Alexander von Bismarck, commented, “We are honored to be here recognizing a landmark act that has had such an extraordinary effect on the ongoing battle against illegal logging.  With the Lacey Act, the U.S. is closing the door on illegal wood, and sending a huge signal that our market power will support both good governance and forest protection”.

The amended Lacey Act is the first law in the world to prohibit trade in wood products made from trees that were illegally harvested.

In many of the world’s poorest countries, the majority of the timber is cut illegally. In 2008, Indonesia was losing $4 billion a year in government revenues due to illegal logging according to its own estimates.

As a result of the international effort to curb trade in illegal logging, the practice is estimated to have decreased by over 20% worldwide, roughly the equivalent of preventing over 1 billion tons of CO2 from reaching the atmosphere. U.S. imports of illegal timber have been steadily falling since 2007, and a recent Chatham house Report mentions that “[while] it cannot be assumed that the Lacey Act will ensure that all wood products imported from high-risk countries are of legal origin…it is likely that imports of illegally sourced wood products will fall further and faster in future in response to the new legislation”.

The Lacey Act of 1900 focused on wildlife trade and has been a leading tool in efforts to control smuggling of products derived from endangered species. The 2008 amendment added plants to this law, which made it applicable to the one trillion dollar global wood products industry.