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Wildlife and Timber Trafficking

Trafficking in Wildlife, Timber, and Fish and Other Environmental Trafficking Crimes

Trafficking in natural resources such as wildlife, timber, fish, and minerals is an international crisis, a critical conservation concern, and a criminal threat to global security. This illegal trade significantly affects the national interests of the United States and our partners around the world. ENRD plays an important role in fighting natural resource trafficking, both domestically and abroad.

ENRD’s efforts to counter trafficking in natural resources have long been aligned with broader U.S. interagency initiatives and are reflected in the recent 2021 Executive Order 14060 (Establishing the United States Council on Transnational Organized Crime) to combat transnational organized crime. This Executive Order recognizes that wildlife and timber trafficking, illegal fishing, and illegal mining, among other crimes, play an increasingly significant role in the threat that well-organized criminal networks pose to public health, public safety, and national security. Such trafficking networks — in addition to depleting natural resources, harming human health and the environment, and contributing to climate change through illegal deforestation and logging — “threaten United States security by degrading the security and stability of allied and partner nations, undermining the rule of law, fostering corruption, … [and] funding insurgent and terrorist groups.”

ENRD’s work also supports the 2021 United States Strategy on Countering Corruption, which is a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to anti-corruption efforts, including addressing corrupt actors that profit from trafficking in wildlife, timber, and minerals.

ENRD undertakes the following specific initiatives to combat these natural resource and trafficking crimes:

  • Wildlife Trafficking: ENRD, together with United States Attorneys’ Offices, prosecutes wildlife trafficking crimes and routinely supports international training efforts to enhance the capacity of partner foreign law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute these wildlife trafficking crimes. ENRD also helps to lead the U.S. efforts to stop the global illegal wildlife trade, including as a co-chair of the Presidential Wildlife Trafficking Task Force implementing the 2014 National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking.
  • Timber Trafficking: The United States was one of the first countries to criminalize the trafficking of plant and plant products, including timber, in international commerce by amending the oldest U.S. wildlife protection law, the Lacey Act, in 2008. Other countries have since passed their own domestic laws criminalizing the trafficking of plant and plant products. ENRD supports the U.S. efforts to deter this form of trafficking through criminal prosecutions, including leading the Timber Interdiction Membership Board and Enforcement Resource (TIMBER) Working Group, and international capacity building.
  • Other Environmental Trafficking Crimes: ENRD is also active in combating other criminal activities involving trafficking, including hazardous waste and e-scrap trafficking, illegal dumping, and illegal mining. For example, Division attorneys hold leadership positions in the INTERPOL Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Committee, supporting joint global enforcement operations, and participating in INTERPOL working groups and meetings focused on pollution and natural resource trafficking-related issues.

ENRD is committed to using all available tools to tackle these complex issues. The Division’s efforts to combat natural resource trafficking and other environmental trafficking crimes are handled by its Environmental Crimes Section (ECS), Law and Policy Section (LPS), and Wildlife and Marine Resources Section (WMRS), in collaboration with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and various federal law enforcement agencies.

Updated September 28, 2023