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Illegal timber harvesting drives transnational crimes that negatively impact U.S. markets and the global economy. It contributes to deforestation and climate change. And the proceeds from illegal timber products can fund terrorism and perpetuate civil unrest.
The Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) is prioritizing the investigation and prosecution of timber trafficking offenses, including through the recent creation of the TIMBER Enforcement Working Group. This has led to the largest-ever fine for timber trafficking, restitution to foreign countries for illegally sourced timber and insight into how trafficking works.
ENRD has been working to build enforcement capacity and working relationships in Cameroon and other nations in the Congo Basin rainforest ecosystem since approximately 2017. Most recently, division attorneys last month met with several Cameroon Ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the proposed formation of a unit dedicated to combatting timber trafficking to support the legal timber trade. Cameroon officials also toured prosecutors through the new port of Kribi and an associated wood yard.
ENRD Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Todd Kim has highlighted the division’s efforts to curtail illegal timber trafficking and increase collaboration across federal agencies and with foreign governments on enforcement efforts.
“The United States was one of the first countries to criminalize the trafficking of plants and plant products in international commerce,” said AAG Kim. “Of natural resource crimes, illegal logging is the most profitable, and it’s the third most profitable transnational crime.
“We’re leading the TIMBER Working Group and visiting countries like Cameroon to bolster the domestic and international detection and prosecution of illegal timber trafficking. Enforcement has many benefits including cutting off revenue streams for criminal enterprises, creating a level playing field for law-abiding U.S. companies, curtailing deforestation and combatting climate change. We appreciate meeting with the government of Cameroon, and we look forward to our future work together.”