Us Lacey Act

The Lacey Act is a U.S. law passed in 1900 to protect wildlife from trafficking and amended in 2008 to include plant products, making it the world’s first ban on the trade of illegally sourced wood products.

Under the amended Act, it is unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase, in interstate or foreign commerce, any plant taken or traded in violation of the laws of the United States, a U.S. state, tribal territories, or foreign countries. The law has three components:

  • a ban on the trade in the United States of illegally sourced wood products (whether they come from within the United States or any other country);
  • a requirement to submit import declarations on certain wood products which include information on country of origin, species, volume, and value; and
  • penalties for violating the law. They depend on whether the company or individual did unknowingly traded in illegal products or did everything they could to attempt to buy legal products – in other words, whether they exercised “due care.”

The Lacey Act covers the entire supply chain. Illegal activity at any point means that the product may not be legally traded in the United States. All parties are equally liable under the law, not just the first placer into the U.S. market.

Products covered

The ban on trade in illegally sourced wood products applies to all products, except for certain scientific specimens and food crops. It includes common products such as raw logs, sawn timber, plywood, composite materials, furniture, pulp, paper and musical instruments. The declaration requirement for imports is being phased in and does not yet cover pulp and paper, along with some other categories of highly processed products. The schedule is available from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the U.S. agency that implements the Lacey Act.

How it works

The Lacey Act was designed to be simple and flexible, to adapt to the needs of individual businesses. It requires U.S. buyers to avoid buying illegally sourced timber, but how best to accomplish that goal is left entirely to the buyers themselves. The law is fact-based, not document-based. This means that there is no requirement to have certification or verification of legal origin, but also means that there are no documents, stamps, licenses, or marks that are accepted as final proof of legality. It is up to each individual U.S. buyer to determine how best to avoid illegal timber, in accordance with its own risk profile and level of comfort with its suppliers. In practice, the steps taken to conduct due care will probably closely track those taken to manage risk properly under the due diligence requirements of the EU Timber Regulation.