CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention) is an international treaty governing trade in endangered or potentially endangered plants and animals. Roughly 5,000 species of animals and 29,000 species of plants are listed in one of three "Appendices."

As buyers of wood products, the simple way to look at the Appendices is as three levels of risk and control, and to remember that CITES is country-specific.

  • Appendix I, about 1,200 species, are species that are threatened with extinction and generally no trade at all is allowed.
  • Appendix II covers about endangered 21,000 species or species that are either similar to or potential substitutes for others on the listing. Trade is controlled with documentation checks and special licensing requirements.
  • Appendix III includes about 170 species which have been listed by the country of origin to help control their trade.
As noted, CITES is a country-specific listing. So Quercus mongolica from Russia will be listed from the end of this month and have trade controls put into place, but Quercus mongolica from China will not be. Note that sometimes Customs will get confused by CITES listings-they will see the species on the list, but not note the country of origin. This has been a particular challenge for some species, like genuine mahogany, that grow in multiple countries. Always make sure you know the actual origin (required under Lacey, too, of course!) for your material.

CITES can be a product-specific listing. A listing might cover logs, but not flooring.

Remember, too, that trade in CITES is under constant control. That means if you import a product under CITES control and then export it, you need documentation in both directions. The control of trade follows that material always; it's not just related to the first trade. This is why CITES is always an issue for musicians-many guitars or other musical instruments have inlays or other material that are of wood now under CITES control. Musicians need to either have documentation showing the production was "pre CITES listing" or that the wood is properly controlled-and they have to carry that with them for every border crossing.

More information on CITES can be found here:

Stay tuned: In next week's post we'll find out more about Russian oak being listed on CITES at the end of this month.

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")