US Lacey Act

US Lacey Act

In May 2008, the US Congress introduced amendments to the Lacey Act, these prohibiting the import and trade of illegally sourced timber and timber products.  The Act, introduced in 1900, already prohibited the import and handling of illegally sourced fish and wildlife. While timber derived from plant species indigenous to the US was covered by the Act before the 2008 amendments, the majority of internationally traded timber was not subject to its restrictions. Under the amendments, all plants and plant products are now covered, with the exception of food crops, common cultivars and scientific specimens, but including nearly all timber and timber products.

The amendments make it unlawful to ‘import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce’ any plant that was ‘taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State’. The applicable legislation encompasses that relating to the harvest of plants, payment of taxes and fees, and their export. An import declaration requirement was also introduced, under which the scientific name, value, quantity and country of origin of the timber imported must be stated, although there are some exceptions. The Lacey Act does not include a requirement for due diligence; however, this is explicitly encouraged since the exercise of ‘due care’ can be used as part of the defence in cases of infringement of this law.

There have been a number of enforcement actions under the Lacey Act since 2008, most notably against Gibson Guitars, between 2009 and 2012 (The Bureau of National Affairs, 2011; The Wall Street Journal, 2012), and Lumber Liquidators, in 2015 (EIA, 2015).