House Republicans introduced legislation Thursday that would ban timber imports from Russia and its ally Belarus, arguing that the millions spent on forest products are fueling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine.
Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, the House Natural Resources Committee’s ranking Republican, introduced the No Timber from Tyrants Act to prohibit Russian imports while increasing “responsible harvesting of American timber to create new jobs, produce more sustainable wood products, and make U.S. federal lands more resistant to catastrophic wildfires.”
“America should be pushing back on Putin’s war of aggression from every possible angle, and there’s no better way to do that than by cutting Russia’s economy off at the knees,” he said.
“We imported hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of wood products from Russia last year alone, giving Russia the power to channel those funds directly into Putin’s war. No more,” Mr. Westerman said.
The measure dovetails with President Biden’s March 8 executive order barring Russian oil-and-gas imports. Congress followed up Thursday by voting to send a bill to Mr. Biden codifying the ban.
“By immediately banning the import of all Russian timber, we can not only deal a harsh blow to tyranny, but we can also simultaneously boost American industries,” Mr. Westerman said. “Enough rhetoric — it’s time to show Putin we mean business and stop economically propping up his senseless violence.”
In 2021, the U.S. imported more than $52 million in wood products from Belarus and $459 million from Russia, the world’s fourth-largest exporter of wood.
The Swiss-based Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification [PEFC] last month designated Russian and Belarus lumber “conflict timber,” meaning that it cannot be used in PEFC-certified product groups.
House Republicans, who have for decades sought to reverse the decline of the Pacific Northwest timber industry, said it was time to step up “responsible harvesting on federal lands in the amount necessary to make up for the lost imports.”
The legislation was introduced with 80 cosponsors and the support of 35 industry groups.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican, called the bill a “win-win,” saying the timber industry “helped build the Pacific Northwest, and with more than 6.5 million acres of forestland, Eastern Washington is in a position to lead and deliver results.”
“By proactively managing these forests and responsibly harvesting more timber, we can increase exports to support our allies, decrease the world’s dangerous dependence on Russia, and make our lands more resilient to catastrophic wildfires,” said Mrs. Rodgers, House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member.
She and Mr. Westerman have championed the American Energy Independence from Russia Act, which has been blocked repeatedly by House Democrats.
That measure would allow the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline without a presidential permit; open up oil-and-gas leasing on federal lands; and require the president to submit an energy-security plan.
The 1990 endangered-species listing of the Northern spotted owl cost 32,000 jobs in the lumber and wood-products industry, according to a 2021 University of Chicago paper, and resulted in an estimated 200 mill closures.