An Inside Look at the U.S. Lacey Act

When the Lacey Act was passed in 1900, it was focused on protecting wildlife. It was a time when the passenger pigeon was nearly extinct due to people’s infringement on the bird’s habitat, and when shipping game into other states was big business. Today, however, the act plays a big role in protecting both plants and animals, the environment, and businesses that depend on the protection of native species.

Lacey act logs

The law has undergone a number of amendments in the last 100-plus years. Among other things, its current language helps prevent the spread of invasive and non-native species, and regulates the import of any species protected by international or domestic law. This prevents non-native species from out-competing native plants for resources. This was the case with plants like kudzu, for example, which was imported to the U.S. from Japan in the 1870s as a solution for erosion control. Today it’s a familiar sight in the Southeastern U.S. where it grows so rapidly that it climbs over trees and kills them through heavy shading.

The Lacey Act also plays a role in protecting the livelihoods of people and businesses—like Timber Products Company—that depend on the survival of native species. In 2008, the act was updated to prevent timber or other vegetation from being illegally harvested. There is no set list of prohibited plants under the Lacey Act because it applies to all plants and focuses on the legality of the harvest itself. For example, harvesting timber on protected federal lands would be illegal, as would be the trade of cacti harvested on a Native American reservation without permission, or the import of orchids not declared during reentry into the United States.

This protection extends to endangered products that are brought in from other countries, including illegally logged timber. Today the Lacey Act is at the heart of ongoing discussions about China’s aggressive dumping of low-cost hardwood plywood products into the United States.

Under the Lacey Act, the United States Department of Agriculture enforces civil and criminal penalties for the illegal trade of both animals and plants. Penalties for violating the act vary, based on whether or not the violator knew they were trading in illegally harvested materials or did their due diligence to determine that the product was legal.

By working directly with a supplier that understands the impacts and nuances of the Lacey Act, you can be sure that you are working with materials that have been responsibly sourced. Here at Timber Products Company, we refer to the Act as the ultimate guide in protecting the environment and respecting the communities impacted by timber harvests.

To discover more about Timber Products Company's continued challenges with anti-dumping, read more on our blog.

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