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US Lacey Act

On 22nd May 2008, the US Congress amended a 100 year statute, the Lacey Act, banning commerce in illegally sourced timber and timber products. The Lacey Act originally dealt purely with plant and plant products and was a powerful tool for the US agencies in fighting wildlife crimes. The Lacey Act amendment represents yet another powerful driver in combating illegal logging.

In summary the US Lacey Act: prohibits trade in illegally sourced plant products (as defined by the country of origin/harvest) and establishes penalties for importers who fail to comply, including confiscation of goods/fines and the possibility of jail time. This is dependent on what “due diligence” systems the company had in place, along with the shipment value. So differences in penalties are based on whether the US authorities deem that the importer knowingly or unknowingly engaged in illegal sourcing. It also requires the importer to declare country of harvest, scientific species, quantity and measure, as well as the value.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) have produced (Dec 2009) a useful summary of the Lacey Act requirements which can be accessed here.