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October 02, 2014

Tigers Don't Want Their Forests Liquidated

You shouldn't have to worry that installing a new hardwood floor in your kitchen will rob Siberian tigers of their home. Since 1900, we've had a law in this country, the Lacey Act, that prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported, or sold. And since 2008, that law has also prohibited the importation of illegally sourced wood products. The problem is real: According to a report from the United Nations and Interpol, between 15 and 30 percent of the wood traded in the world comes from illegal logging.

That deforestation not only threatens endangered species (like the world's last 450 wild Siberian tigers), it's also a leading driver of climate disruption. According to that same report, 17 percent of all carbon pollution worldwide is caused by deforestation.

A law like the Lacey Act is only truly effective, though, if companies know that it will be enforced and that they will be held accountable. Although some companies have taken steps to ensure that their wood products are sourced legally, others may succumb to the temptation of easy profits if they think they can get away with it.

In 2013, after a multi-year undercover investigation, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) published a detailed report, "Liquidating the Forests," that described illegal logging in the Russian Far East, home to the last 450 Siberian tigers in the wild. EIA's investigation alleged that Lumber Liquidators, the top-selling flooring retailer in the U.S., knowingly bought millions of square feet of oak flooring from Russia that had been illegally harvested and laundered.

One year ago, federal agencies launched an investigation. Currently, several government agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Agriculture are determining whether Lumber Liquidators violated the Lacey Act.

This week, a broad coalition of environmental, science, and labor groups called on the Obama administration to enforce the law and hold Lumber Liquidators accountable. This coalition, which includes the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Rainforest Action Network, and the United Steelworkers, knows that reducing illegal logging around the world will not only keep carbon pollution out of the air but will also protect communities abroad and jobs at home that are undercut by cheap, illegal products.

Already this year, prompted by the Lumber Liquidators case, more than 100,000 Sierra Club members and supporters have written to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking them to fully enforce the Lacey Act.

Strong environmental protections only work if they're enforced. If you haven't already voiced your support for the Lacey Act, do it here.

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