Congress passed the landmark Lacey Act in 1900 to ban the illegal trafficking of fish and wildlife. In 2008, the Lacey Act was amended to extend its protections to plants and plant products, including timber. Today, the multiple U.S. government agencies including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Justice, through its Environmental and Natural Resources Division, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and others enforce the Lacey Act. Violators can face potentially significant criminal and civil penalties. Illegal harvest and trade of timber products from China, South America, Russia, and even here in the United States have been the focus of recent DOJ investigations.

How the Lacey Act Affects the Wood Industry

The Lacey Act makes it unlawful to harvest or trade in any plant or plant product (including timber and wood products) taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of the laws of the United States, a U.S. state, tribal law, or any foreign law. Under the Lacey Act, companies or individuals must exercise “due care” to ensure the wood materials contained in their products were harvested, transported, and sold in accordance with all applicable laws. Importers of timber and products containing wood are required to declare the genus, species, and country of harvest of the wood materials at the time of import. The law also prohibits the falsification of documents, accounts, or records of any plant or plant product covered by the Lacey Act or to import plants or plant products (with some exceptions) without an import declaration.

A company or individual who violates the Lacey Act whether knowingly or unknowingly could face potentially significant criminal penalties (including monetary fines and/or imprisonment), civil penalties (monetary fines), and/or forfeiture of goods.