The International Wood Products Association (IWPA), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and United Steelworkers (USW) have welcomed the approval of HR 1497, the Legal Timber Protection Act, by the Natural Resources Committee of the US House of Representatives.

HR 1497, which aims to tackle illegal logging by changing the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 to extend its protections to plants illegally harvested outside of the US, was ratified by the committee on November 7 and must now go to a further vote in the Senate.

“The Legal Timber Protection Act sends a strong signal to world markets that the US will not accept illegally harvested wood products,” said WWF vice-president Jason Patlis.

“The 745,000 businesses represented by our coalition partners are unified in the fight against illegal logging and welcome this amended legislation as it provides all US consumers continued confidence that the wood products they use are legal,” said IWPA executive vice-president Brent McClendon.

IWPA also said that it was pleased with changes to the legal and technical language of the bill, which it said had worried small business, and called on the Senate to “follow the leadership” shown by the House.

USW, which represents workers from the North American forest products industry, added that the Act would enable its members to compete on a “level playing field where our overseas competitors are required to obey the law on timber harvesting”.