In a letter to members of the House of Representatives, conservation groups, workers and others blasted H.R. 3210, the Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness (RELIEF) Act, introduced recently by Representatives Jim Cooper, Marsha Blackburn, and Mary Bono Mack. According to international environmental campaigning organization the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the bill would gut the Lacey Act, one of the most effective forest protections that bans import of illegally sourced wood, paper, and other forest products into the United States.   

“A more accurate name for this bill would be the Relief for Illegal Loggers Act,” said Dr. Douglas Boucher, director of the Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative at the Union of Concerned Scientists.  

According to EIA, the legislation would completely exempt pulp and paper from the Lacey Act requirements, providing legal access to the giant American market for illegal foreign loggers. Pulp and paper represents a majority of forest product imports, and employs almost 400,000 people in 42 states with a combined $30 billion in annual compensation.  

“Workers in the domestic pulp and paper sector have really been hit hard by illegal foreign competition,” said Roy Houseman of the United Steelworkers.  “The Lacey Act serves a critical purpose for our environment in helping to prevent illegal logging, but it also serves an important purpose for U.S. workers and businesses that have to compete with imports of products made from illegally sourced trees. As our nation continues to struggle with high unemployment, the Cooper-Blackburn bill would only lead to additional job losses at America’s pulp and paper mills. These are good jobs, mostly in rural communities, that our members cannot afford to lose.”

The Cooper-Blackburn legislation would also minimizes fines for “first infractions” to just $250.

Letter signatories include: Blue Green Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for International Environmental Law, Clean Air Task Force, EIA, Friends of the Earth, Global Witness, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Alliance, Rainforest Relief, Saint Louis Zoo, Sierra Club, Sound & Fair, The Field Museum, The Madagascar Fauna Group, The Nature Conservancy, Union of Concerned Scientists, United States Green Building Council, United Steelworkers, Wildlife Conservation Society and World Wildlife Fund.