The Lacey Act

What is the Lacey Act?

In order to address the role of the US as a major consumer of illegal wood, in 2008 the US government amended the Lacey Act, a law originally passed in 1900 which had previously only applied to animals. By extending it to plants and plant-based products, the US became the first country in the world to ban the import of wood sourced in violation of the laws of the country of origin.

The amended Act has two key elements:

  • It makes it an offence to import, export, transport, sell, receive or acquire any plant which was illegally sourced either within the US or abroad;
  • It requires importers of most major timber and wood product types to declare accurately the country of harvest and species name of all such products when they enter the country;

These provisions have been in effect since May 2008. Companies or individuals caught with illegally-sourced wood, plants or plant products can now be prosecuted or have their goods confiscated. Possible penalties range from forfeiture of goods and vessels to fines and even prison sentences.

How Can It Help You?

Prosecutions under the Lacey Act have led to penalties running into millions of dollars. There have been high-profile cases involving timber from Peru, Madagascar, the Russian Far East and Myanmar. Yet it is estimated that the US continues to import illegally sourced wood worth nearly $3 billion each year. By collecting and sharing relevant evidence, you can help close this implementation and enforcement gap.  Doing so will support efforts to improve enforcement and forest governance in timber exporting countries, helping protect the environment and local communities from the destruction wrought by illegal logging.