WASHINGTON – The National Marine Manufacturers Association is praising legislators after the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee voted on Nov. 7 to approve H.R. 1497, the Legal Timber Protection Act, after an ‘innocent owner’ provision was included, NMMA said in a release yesterday.
The innocent owner provision “protects U.S. small businesses and manufacturers from misdirected provisions that would have held companies responsible for policing foreign timber laws,” NMMA wrote in its release.
“We are pleased that the committee understood the legal and technical concerns raised by our members and have acted in a common sense manner to provide manufacturers and boaters confidence that the wood products they use are legal,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “The bill approved by the House Resources Committee provides forfeiture liability protection for small businesses that have practiced due diligence in procuring wood products in the supply chain.”
The Legal Timber Protection Act is aimed at stopping illegal timber harvesting by amending the Lacey Act—a law originally designed for illegal hunting and fishing. Despite the good intentions behind the proposed legislation, the recreational boating industry was concerned about what NMMA called, “uncertainty in terms of enforcement and ambiguous documentation requirements in wood products that would have been placed on manufacturers.”
The bill could have given Justice Department officials authority to seize marine products and boats containing imported wood components that may or may not have been built with timber that was harvested in violation of foreign laws—something a manufacturer would have a near impossibility of determining, NMMA said.
“They cannot realistically be expected to know what occurred during the timber process thousands of miles and a world away from a boat yard in North Carolina,” Dammrich said. “It was an ineffective approach that takes the focus off of illegal timber harvesters in other countries that don’t follow environmental laws.”
With the measure cleared on the committee level, attention will now shift to the U.S. Senate where a similar companion bill has been introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The NMMA—in a coalition effort with the International Wood Products Association, National Association of Home Builders, National Federation of Independent Business, National Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Association, and the American Home Furnishings Alliance—is calling on the U.S. Senate to follow the lead of the House of Representatives and adopt the revisions in the Blumenauer legislation to help stem the flow of illegal wood trade.
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