Roseburg Forest Products is halting all production and sale of wood siding products made with okoume wood after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement informed the company of an investigation into whether suppliers got the wood from illegal logging in the Congo Basin rainforest.
Company spokeswoman Rebecca Taylor said Tuesday it will not affect the company’s Dillard plant, which is the only one using the wood. She emphasized that the company is not under investigation, but Washington-based wholesale suppliers Cornerstone Forest Products and Evergreen Hardwoods — the suppliers of the wood — are.
“Roseburg is not under investigation and I think that needs to be clear,” Taylor said. “Our suppliers are under investigation and we are assisting with that investigation. Basically, we are being a witness in a sense and not the subject.”
The News-Review was unable to obtain a copy of the investigation report.
Okoume wood is used in wood siding and produced solely at the Dillard plant. Taylor said the production involving that wood makes up a small enough portion that everyone will still have work to do while the investigation is open.
“We are stopping production of any products that have used okoume,” Taylor said. “It’s just one of our many many products that we create and it comes out of only one of our plants. When we heard that this investigation was going on, that there was some question about the sourcing of that veneer, we stopped production with that veneer and we stopped selling any already manufactured siding that had been manufactured with that veneer.”
The company was informed about the investigation on March 11 and was not aware of any issues beforehand according to a press release on Monday. Taylor said the investigation is expected to last six to 12 months.
“We are not using okoume veneer from anybody while this investigation is going on,” Taylor said. “Out of an overabundance of caution. We are very concerned about complying with the Lacey Act and making sure that everything that goes into our products comes from legal sources.”
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations division has been investigating illegal imports of okoume wood under the Lacey Act.
That act was passed in 1900 as the first federal law protecting wildlife and amended in 2008 to include plants such as trees used for timber, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
Okoume wood comes from Gabon and the Republic of Congo in West Africa and is under threat of deforestation, which also threatens endangered species in the rainforest, the second largest in the world. The wood is used primarily in veneer and siding for its decorative qualities.
Home Depot stopped accepting wood from the Congo Basin in September 2018 as part of its environmentally friendly movement.
Roseburg Forest Products hired DougleHelix Tracking Technologies in 2018 to conduct “full, boots-on-the-ground, onsite supply chain audits of wood from the two countries,” according to the company press release on Monday, but neither audit found violations of the Lacey Act and the few risks found were resolved to company satisfaction.
“Roseburg is very committed to ensuring our products adhere to all of the requirements and regulations on the books and we have done extensive due diligence to avoid this situation,” Taylor said. “This has been a very unfortunate development and we support the ICE investigation. We are fully cooperating, opening our books to them and getting them any information we can provide them to make sure that their investigation is successful.”