Share

Lumber Liquidators Accused of Importing Illegally Logged Wood after Federal Raid

By: By Michele Berger
Published: October 9, 2013

Trains full of logs from Suifenhe, in the northeast of China. According to a new report from the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency, 96 percent of hardwoods exported from Russia end up in China. There, the origins of illegally harvested wood are obscured. (Environmental Investigation Agency)

Lumber Liquidators, the top-selling floor retailer in North America, has since 2008 allegedly purchased millions of square feet of wood illegally logged in Russia — home to the last 450 Siberian tigers in the world — according to a report released today from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

The report comes on the heels of a late-September federal investigation of Lumber Liquidators’ importing practices by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Details of the warrants are sealed.

In a news release after the raid, Lumber Liquidators stated that it follows all applicable international and domestic regulations. “The Company takes its sourcing and compliance very seriously, and is cooperating with authorities to provide them with requested information.”

For the past six years, the EIA has been scrutinizing logging in the region where Lumber Liquidators reportedly sources some of its wood, sending investigators undercover as importers in both Russia and China. The group discovered that despite increased awareness of related laws, like the Lacey Act in the United States, the overall feeling was that “some international customers still did not demand legal wood.”

In particular, EIA learned that an enterprise called Suifenhe Xingjia Group admitted to illegal logging and paying bribes. That company’s single biggest trading partner is, according to the EIA, Lumber Liquidators. The retailer has been working with Xingjia for at least five years, says the report.

(MORE: Logging threatens monarch butterflies

Other facts from the EIA report are pretty stark: Fifty to 80 percent of hardwoods felled in this part of the world get harvested illegally. This costs the Russian economy some 4 billion Russian rubles (that’s $123 million) in a single year. And it threatens the livelihoods of more than 100,000 indigenous people.

Not to mention the harm it inflicts on one of the world’s last stands of temperate hardwood forests and some severely threatened species. “Three-hundred-year-old Mongolian oak and great Korean pine trees nourish deer, boars and other animals, which in turn support populations of the critically endangered Siberian tigers and Far Eastern leopards,” the report reads.

“Organized criminal groups send out logging brigades to steal valuable hardwoods from protected areas,” said Alexander von Bismarck, executive director of the nonprofit EIA, in a news release. “Importing cheap illegal wood from the Russian Far East is a tragic crime of convenience that directly undercuts any business trying to play by the rules. The same types of wood are available around the world from legal and sustainable sources.”

Whether there will a crackdown on Lumber Liquidators’ logging sources remains unclear. It’s also uncertain how the government shutdown will affect the investigation. USFWS oversees compliance with the Lacey Act, which “makes it a federal crime to poach game in one state with the purpose of selling the bounty in another,” according to the EIA. A 2008 amendment also requires importers to provide additional information about wood coming into the country, like species type and country of origin. But USFWS suspended all work related to the Lacey Act (and others) due to the shutdown. ICE employees are still working. However, that doesn’t apply to public affairs officials, and government websites still aren’t functioning, so we’ve been unable to confirm further details.

If the EIA had its way, Lumber Liquidators — and other companies accused of knowingly buying illegally logged wood from this part of the world — would be prosecuted fully. “Without action,” von Bismarck noted in the news release, “consumers will continue to be unwitting financiers of the timber mafias that are raiding the world’s forests.”

MORE: GRAPHIC PHOTOS: Vintage Poaching and Hunting

 

A hunter standing over a dead rhinoceros. (A Bayley-Worthington/Getty Images)


Featured Blogs

March 2014 Global Weather Extremes Summary

By Christopher C. Burt
April 15, 2014

March featured a number of anomalous extreme weather events such as the floods in portions of Egypt and New Zealand, a freak hailstorm in Asmara, Eritrea, record warmth in much of Europe, severe cold and snow in the eastern half of the U.S. and heavy rainfall in the Pacific Northwest that culminated in a deadly landslide in Washington. Preliminary data from NASA indicates that globally (land-ocean temperature index), it was the 4th warmest March on record (since 1880).

Wunderground Launches Major Site Redesign and New Logo

By Dr. Jeff Masters
April 15, 2014

We are transitioning to a completely new logo, as part of a site-wide redesign aimed at furthering our mission of unlocking and sharing vast amounts of weather data with as many people as possible using the latest digital technologies, in a way that is visually appealing and engaging. We kept the colors and vibrancy of the rainbow but replaced the rainbow shape with the letters "WU"; a raindrop over the "U" represents rain falling into a rain gauge, a nod to our incredible Personal Weather Station (PWS) community (34,000 strong!)

Polar Vortex, Global Warming, and Cold Weather

By Stu Ostro
January 10, 2014

Some thoughts about the recent viral meme(s).

Just in time for the Holidays! Wundermap has a new layer: Precip Start Time!

By Shaun Tanner
December 23, 2013

The Weather Underground elves have been hard at work developing a brand new layer for the WunderMap and they made their deadline. Enjoy the newest addition to the WunderMap. Also remember to give us your feedback!

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.

Astronomical VS. Meteorological Winter

By Tom Niziol
March 1, 2013