The Lacey Act and What It Could Do for Indonesia

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Published on December 4th, 2008  |  Discuss This Article  

An amendment to the Lacey Act was recently approved by the U.S. Congress. It may sound like another piece of rather tedious paper work, but this amendment has major implications for management and conservation of forests in Indonesia.

The new Lacey Act amendment basically says that any plant or timber products that come into the United States using illegal or unverified sources are by U.S. legal standards illegal. This means that those who import these goods are subject to fines or imprisonment.

Indonesia exports large amounts of such goods. The country’s export of wood and wood exports was worth some $2.8 billion in 2008, with pulp and paper export adding another $3.2 billion.

Indonesia is now developing new regulations that should ensure that all these goods are derived from sustainably managed forests, not illegal logging. This requires certification.

Certification refers to three things: sustainable forest management, verification of legal origin, and chain of custody. The latter two verify the legality of the wood, and the former makes sure that the the wood came from well-managed forests.

The Conservancy has been very active in this field for two reasons:

  • Firstly, we know that well-managed forests maintain most if not all of the conservation values that are so important to us.
  • Secondly, by ensuring that forests are well managed, we prevent them from being over-harvested and unproductive in the long run, in which case they generally are taken out of production and are converted to non-forest. And that’s where we lose the conservation values.

The United States is a major importer of Indonesian wood products, and the Lacey Act therefore has the potential to significantly reduce forest loss, and thus save habitats of endangered species.

And that’s how big international politics in Washington are important for that orangutan mother sitting in a Borneo rainforest tree with its little baby.

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