The heartbreaking news came yesterday that a young peasant activist in Brazil was murdered over an ongoing illegal logging conflict in the Amazon. Obede Loyla Souza’s death marked the fifth logging-related murder in the region in only a month.
According to the Associated Press, the Brazilian government is taking “a series of measures to contain the violence,” while acknowledging that “more decisive action” is needed. But as long as there’s a market for it, it’s difficult to imagine an end to the turmoil. What’s keeping illegally logged timber out of the US?
The Lacey Act (16 USC §§3371-3378), administered jointly by the Department of the Interior, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Agriculture, prohibits trade in plants and plant products “taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law, treaty, or regulation” of any US State or foreign country. The Act also mandates proper documentation for imported plant products – a declaration of country of origin and species names of all the plants in the products.
Three years ago, section 8204 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 updated the Lacey Act (originally passed into law in 1900!) to protect a broader range of plants – an amendment specifically intended to prevent trade in both illegally harvested timber as well as wood products made from such timber.
If decreasing the incentive for murder in countries such as Brazil isn’t a big enough of a deterrent for you, know that corporate violators found guilty of the Lacey Act may be fined up to $500,000 per violation (along with a nice 5 year stay in prison).