The Lacey Act combats trafficking in “illegal” wildlife, fish, and plants, including wood products.

Background: The Lacey Act was first enacted in 1900 to combat the impact of poaching, interstate shipment of unlawfully killed game, and killing of birds for feather trade. The Act was amended in 2008 to include products, including timber, derived from illegally harvested plants. The Act also created new declaration requirements for importing wood products. The primary reasons for the 2008 amendments were to reduce illegal logging and other illegal plant trade globally while expanding worldwide conservation and to increase the value of U.S. wood exports.

Operation: The Lacey Act regulates the trade of wildlife and plants and creates penalties for violations. Violations addressed by the Lacey Act involve domestic and international illegal trade of plants and wildlife. The Lacy Act also makes it unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any plant that has been acquired in violation of any federal or foreign law or regulation.

Under the Lacey Act, the importer is responsible for making sure that imported plants and plant products are legally harvested, processed and imported. As such, all plants or plant products that are imported into the country must be declared, with a few exceptions, at the time of import. The declaration requires importers to provide specific information on the plant or plant products contained in the importation, such as the scientific name (including genus and species); value of the importation; quantity, including unit of measure; and name of the country in which the plant was harvested.

A Lacey Act violation can result in strict penalties that could involve fines for civil penalties or incarceration for criminal penalties and forfeiture in both cases. The primary way for importers to protect themselves from such penalties is to exercise due care in determining the legality of harvest. Enforcement of the Lacey Act is fact-based and uses information gained from foreign governments, NGOs, private citizens, data analysis and industry members, among other sources.

Administration and Enforcement: The Lacey Act is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the U.S. Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). APHIS is responsible for the plant provisions of the Lacey Act (including wood products) and FWS is responsible for the wildlife provisions of the Lacey Act. The Department of Homeland Security, which controls U.S. customs and monitors borders through Customs and Border Protection, supports this work.

Separately, FWS is also the primary agency for enforcing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in the United States; other agencies, including APHIS, also play a role in CITES enforcement.

Statutory Authority: 18 USC 42-43. 16 USC 3371-3378.