As noted a few weeks ago, APHIS is looking for commentary on the Lacey Act. I thought it would be good to take a few posts to review the Act and what it means for everyone in the wood industry.

First, let's look at what the Lacey Act requires. In a simplistic summary, there are three basic components:

1) It is a United States federal offense to trade in illegal or "tainted" plants and plant based products; and the action that made the product illegal ("tainted" the product) does not have to have occurred within the US. Included in the long list of ways to "taint" a product are actions such as harvesting it illegally, trading it without proper duties or other fees being paid, or smuggling/stealing it.

2) Importers need to declare both what species they are bringing in and where it came from.

3) Don't lie to the government! (While this seems like common sense, the government has to specifically state that it's wrong so they can prosecute you if you do it.)

The Lacey Act applies to everyone in the United States, from the individuals and companies doing business in wood to the final retail consumer-the law does not exclude anyone. Violations of the new law will be met with steep penalties if the government is able to prove that an individual or a corporation has knowingly traded in illegal material or has misreported an imported product. Ten years of imprisonment is a possible penalty and corporate fines can go as high as $500,000.

Lacey is not alone in the world-the international demand for legality documentation is here to stay, and it's not just for the U.S. Japan began requiring some forms of legality statements over five years ago, the United Kingdom is debating the issue, and even the state of Illinois recently considered passing a law against the trade of illegal timber within the state. Furthermore, the European Union is currently developing legislation similar to the Lacey Act that will cover international trade with all of the countries in the Euro-zone. (There is rumor that this legislation may potentially require the submission of legality documentation at the point of entry, which Lacey currently does not require).  

So the work you do today, if you trade in other countries, may help you far beyond just complying with the Lacey Act. The documentary conditions created by Lacey Act may well become the default condition for the international trade of wood products.

Next week, we'll look at the documentary burden on importers.

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.'")