U.S. Lacey Act
The Lacey Act is a U.S. law originally passed in 1900 to protect wildlife from trafficking. In 2008 it was amended to include plant products, making it the world's first ban on the trade of illegally sourced wood products. Under the amended Act, it is unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase, in interstate or foreign commerce, any plant taken or traded in violation of the laws of the United States, a U.S. state, tribal territories, or foreign countries.
The Lacey Act covers the entire supply chain for timber and timber products. Illegal activity at any point means that the product may not be legally traded in the United States. All parties are equally liable under the law, not just the first placed into the U.S. market.
The ban on trade in illegally sourced wood products applies to all products, except for certain scientific specimens and food crops, and has been in effect since the law was amended in 2008. It includes common products such as raw logs, sawntimber, plywood, composite materials, furniture, pulp, paper and musical instruments. The updated schedule is available from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the U.S. agency that implements the Lacey Act.
What is considered 'illegal' under the Lacey Act?
There are two parts to a Lacey Act violation:
First, an underlying law must be violated. There are only six specific types of laws which, if violated, mean that the resulting product is illegally sourced. They concern forestry, taxes, and export. Other activities which may be illegal in the country of origin (e.g. labour violations) are not covered by the Lacey Act. The six categories are:
- Theft of plants
- Taking plants from an officially protected area such as a park or reserve
- Taking plants from other types of "officially designated areas" recognized by a country's laws and regulations, such as a designated community forest
- Taking plants without, or contrary to, required authorization, including cutting without permits for the area or species harvested
- Failing to pay appropriate royalties, taxes, or fees associated with the harvest, transport, or commerce of plants, including not paying stumpage fees or paying appropriate taxes
- Violating laws concerning export or trans-shipment, such as exporting logs from a country with a log-export ban
Second, the resulting product must be traded to or within the United States. This second transaction may trigger a Lacey Act Violation.
Although the law is complex, it boils down to four basic requirements:
- Do not deal in illegal wood;
- Employ due care in the import and buying process;
- File the mandatory import declaration with every shipment of wood products imported to the U.S.; and
- Do not knowingly mis‐label products or make false statements on the import declaration.
The Lacey Act is violated when someone trades illegally-sourced wood or products in U.S. interstate or foreign commerce.
How do Malaysian companies comply with the Lacey Act?
Malaysia is a manufacturing hub of raw wood materials, whether locally-sourced or imported from other countries. Malaysian companies whose main export market is the US usually source for certified timber (whether PEFC- or FSC-certified) or legally-extracted timber raw materials, to feed into their production line.
With Malaysia's own Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS), which is PEFC-endorsed, it is easy enough to source for certified timber from sustainably managed forest. For further information on the MTCS, please click here