19 May 2010

UK COALITION GOVERNMENT PLEDGES TO OUTLAW ILLEGAL TIMBER

The new Conservative – Liberal Democratic government coalition has made a pledge to introduce measures to make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence.

The pledge was included in last week’s hastily drafted coalition agreement.

It remains to be seen how the measures will be implemented but such legislation is long overdue in the UK, which until this point has ignored it’s role in placing legal responsibility on wood importers to ensure that timber originates from legal sources.

The current lack of legislation places all legal enforcement responsibility upon producer countries, many of whom have under-resourced forestry and law enforcement departments and suffer from corruption at all levels. In effect, illegal wood becomes legal as soon as it is exported to the UK.

In the US, the Lacey Act is already enforcing responsibility upon wood importers and famous users of timber, including Gibson Guitars, who recently fell foul of the Act after importing illegally harvested Madagascan rosewood.

The EU is currently under-going a review process on similar legislation but it will be 2014 before the measures are implemented, assuming they are ratified by the member countries.

It is not clear at this stage if the Coalition Government’s pledge is tied in with the EU legislation or if the UK will introduce unilateral measures.

Either way, the fact that the issue of the importation of illegal timber is getting high level recognition is a big step in the right direction.