Timber Investigation Centre — Laws

EU Timber Regulation

What is the EUTR?

Since March 2013, the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) has imposed restrictions on the import of timber into the 28 member states of the European Union.

It applies to specific timber and timber products placed on the EU market whether logged in the EU or internationally, and applies even when timber products arrive in the EU via a processing country.

The key elements of the EUTR only apply to the companies which first place relevant products on the EU market (which for wood from outside the EU means importers), not companies further down the supply chain. There are two separate components:

Companies are prohibited from placing illegal timber or timber products on the EU market.

Due Diligence
Companies are also required to actively assess the risk that timber has been logged or traded illegally, before placing it on the market. In order to do so they are required to develop or use a due diligence system, that involves gathering information on timber they want to import, evaluating the probability that it is legal, and taking steps to mitigate the risk of importing illegal timber. A failure to carry out proper due diligence is an offence, even if the wood itself is not shown to be illegal.

Penalties for infringement of the EUTR vary between different EU countries but can include criminal prosecution, fines, and the seizure of timber.

How Can It Help You?

Implementation and enforcement of the EUTR has been slow, and as a result illegal wood continues to enter the EU. A huge opportunity exists to improve implementation and help shut down one of the largest global markets for stolen timber. Authorities in the EU are showing a growing willingness to act. In early 2016, for example, action was taken against companies in Sweden and Holland that were attempting to sell high-risk timber from Myanmar and Cameroon.

As the ability of enforcement authorities to react decisively improves, increasing the flow of evidence from timber-exporting countries can have greater impact. The due diligence component of the EUTR means that strong evidence of illegal logging in a particular country can deter traders from sourcing timber from it. Ultimately, this should encourage improvements in enforcement and forest governance in source countries, and help mitigate the devastating effects of illegal logging.

The Lacey Act

What is the Lacey Act?

In order to address the role of the US as a major consumer of illegal wood, in 2008 the US government amended the Lacey Act, a law originally passed in 1900 which had previously only applied to animals. By extending it to plants and plant-based products, the US became the first country in the world to ban the import of wood sourced in violation of the laws of the country of origin.

The amended Act has two key elements:

  • It makes it an offence to import, export, transport, sell, receive or acquire any plant which was illegally sourced either within the US or abroad; 
  • It requires importers of most major timber and wood product types to declare accurately the country of harvest and species name of all such products when they enter the country; 

 These provisions have been in effect since May 2008. Companies or individuals caught with illegally-sourced wood, plants or plant products can now be prosecuted or have their goods confiscated. Possible penalties range from forfeiture of goods and vessels to fines and even prison sentences.

How Can It Help You?

Prosecutions under the Lacey Act have led to penalties running into millions of dollars. There have been high-profile cases involving timber from Peru, Madagascar, the Russian Far East and Myanmar. Yet it is estimated that the US continues to import illegally sourced wood worth nearly $3 billion each year. By collecting and sharing relevant evidence, you can help close this implementation and enforcement gap.  Doing so will support efforts to improve enforcement and forest governance in timber exporting countries, helping protect the environment and local communities from the destruction wrought by illegal logging.

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