U.S.'s Initiative Against Illegal Logging: Protecting Forests and the Livelihoods that Depend on Them

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Washington, DC
January 30, 2009

Illegal logging costs countries $10-15 billion each year in lost revenues. Illegal logging and the trade in illegally harvested forest products destroy valuable forest ecosystems and the wildlife that depend on them, undermine legitimate commerce, fuel conflict, and have serious economic and environmental consequences. The United States’ Initiative Against Illegal Logging (USIAIL) aims to address the problem working with producer and consumer partners.

Our Strategy

  • Build capacity in developing countries to clarify and enforce forest-related laws, and to establish good governance at all levels.
  • Engage forest-dependent communities in sustainably managing forests.
  • Promote the use of technologies such as remote sensing to monitor changes in forest conditions and compliance with forest-related laws.
  • Promote good business practices, transparent markets and legal trade.

Recent Developments

New Tools-- On May 22, 2008, the United States amended the Lacey Act – the country’s oldest wildlife protection statute – extending its reach to include illegally harvested timber and providing the legal authority to take action when products stemming from the practice of illegal logging enter the United States. The Lacey Act now makes it illegal to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase, in interstate or foreign commerce, any plant or products made from plants, with limited exceptions, to be taken or traded in violation of domestic or international laws.

China – The United States and China -- the world's largest wood producers, consumers and traders, concluded a Memorandum of Understanding on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade in May 2008, committing to work cooperatively to strengthen forest law enforcement and governance, share information on illegal logging and associated trade, and promote transparent timber markets and legal timber trade.

Indonesia – The United States and Indonesia are working under a 2006 bilateral agreement to combat illegal logging and associated trade while helping to ensure Indonesia’s legally produced timber and wood products have continued access to United States markets.

Liberia – The governments of the United States and Liberia are working to foster important forest sector reforms to help restore legitimacy and fiscal transparency to the country's war-ravaged forest sector through the Liberia Forest Initiative.

Latin America – The Trade Promotion Agreement signed by the United States and Peru in 2008 includes a groundbreaking Annex on Forest Sector Governance which recognizes the environmental and economic consequences of trade associated with illegal logging. The two countries will work under a cooperative agreement to develop concrete steps to enhance forest sector governance and promote legal trade in timber products. In Central America, the United States is providing $18 million for environmental cooperation under the U.S. Free Trade Agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic. A portion of these funds is being used to improve governance in the region, including forest law enforcement.

International Engagement – The United States continues to catalyze political commitment to combat illegal logging and associated trade through G8 commitments initiated at the U.S.-hosted Summit in Denver in 1997 and support regional Forest Law Enforcement and Governance processes launched in East Asia, Africa, and Europe and North Asia. The United States co-sponsored a landmark resolution by the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in 2007 to combat illicit trafficking in forest products by organized criminal groups that also traffic in drugs, arms and persons.

Private Sector Engagement – Through the Sustainable Forest Products Global Alliance, the United States is working with forest product companies and suppliers worldwide to promote responsible forest management and trade, reduce illegal logging, and improve the well-being of communities in developing countries. As a result, 25 million hectares of forests are being better managed and moving toward certification eligibility.

The United States and The Nature Conservancy launched the Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade (RAFT) program in 2007, forging a catalytic group of NGOs, governments and the private sector to transform the tropical timber trade in Asia. The program aims to improve forest management practices, promote timber trade from certified legal sources, and strengthen regional cooperation on forest management and trade.

Local Engagement – Public participation at all levels is fundamental to combating illegal logging. The United States supports programs in Ecuador, Madagascar, Peru, the Philippines and others to help communities and local and national governments work together to manage forests and fight illegal encroachment.

Technical Knowledge and Tools – Through public-private partnerships, the United States is providing technical assistance to conserve threatened forests and protect threatened species, working to:

  • Restore forests in the Malaysian state of Sabah, an important orangutan habitat.
  • Enhance the use of remote sensing technologies to monitor real-time changes in forest conditions in the Congo Basin.
  • Develop and test wood tracking technologies in Peru and Bolivia.
  • Strengthen information sharing on cross-border timber trade in Europe and Asia.
  • Introduce methodologies and tools to combat illegal logging in Russia and the Balkans

Related Initiatives

Through the Congo Basin Forest Partnership the United States works with more than 36 governments and non-government partners toward the shared goal of conserving the forest of central Africa to benefit the region's people. The United States has committed more than $100 million through the Central African Regional Program for the Environment, a 20-year initiative launched in 1995 to help forest users and owners in the Congo Basin to sustainably manage their forests.

Under the 1998 Tropical Forest Conservation Act, the United States has concluded debt-for-nature agreements with 12 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, helping to relieve official debt to the United States. These agreements will generate $188 million over 10-25 years to help conserve important tropical forests in partner countries.