The Timber Interdiction Membership Board and Enforcement Resource (TIMBER) Working Group, a new interagency collaboration, was announced at the TIMBER Trafficking Enforcement Roundtable April 19.
The event, held in Washington, DC, was part of the Earth Day celebrations and aimed to address the growing concerns related to illegal timber trafficking and its impact on climate change.
Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Benjamin Mizer opened the event by emphasizing the Biden Administration's commitment to combating climate change and addressing environmental challenges, including the illegal trafficking of natural resources.
“The United States was the first country to address the issue of the trafficking of plant and plant products, including timber, in international commerce by amending the Lacey Act in 2008… These amendments gave law enforcement and prosecutors in the United States a powerful legal tool to deter and prosecute those who illegally commercialize plant and plant products. That includes timber – particularly timber taken in violation of foreign law and then smuggled into the United States.”
The TIMBER Working Group's members include the Department of Justice, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the U.S. Council on Transnational Organized Crime’s Strategic Division.
Illegal logging is the third most lucrative form of transnational crime worldwide, after counterfeiting and illegal drug trafficking, and is valued at up to $152 billion USD annually. It has numerous negative effects, such as contributing to climate change, causing habitat and biodiversity loss, fostering other illicit activities, and funding terrorism and conflict.
The TIMBER Working Group aims to improve coordination and resources to combat timber trafficking by focusing on three main objectives: identifying and investigating complex timber trafficking cases domestically and internationally, developing new tools and techniques for prosecution, and building the capacity of partner governments to combat this illegal trade.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim, head of the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), highlighted the crucial role of ENRD in investigating and prosecuting timber trafficking offenses. The division has already secured the highest ever fine for timber trafficking in the Lumber Liquidators case and continues to actively pursue other investigations.
“I cannot discuss our ongoing matters,” said Mr. Kim. “However, I can say that we continue to actively investigate and prosecute these cases. For example, this September we have a trial in Florida on a seven-count indictment for the alleged importation of wood products in violation of the Lacey Act, and other crimes. Other Lacey Act wood and wood-product investigations are ongoing.”
Kim also stressed the importance of developing relationships with foreign governments and strengthening their ability to detect and prosecute timber trafficking offenses. In the coming months, ENRD will work directly with officials from Guatemala, Honduras, Cameroon, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
The TIMBER Working Group, through its interagency collaboration and coordination with foreign governments, is expected to significantly enhance the United States' efforts to combat illegal timber trafficking and its devastating environmental consequences.
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