(Friday, February 9) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) enforces the Lacey Act to regulate the importation of plant products, including wood and other materials. Products containing illegally harvested wood are subject to seizure upon entry into the U.S. and individuals importing these products can be incarcerated and subject to financial penalties.
Importers of wood products are required to file a declaration identifying the scientific name, value, quantity, and country of harvest to determine if the wood was legally harvested. Importers must provide certification on the origin of wood and third-party certification or verification cannot be used to prove the legality of timber harvested. The Lacey Act does not apply to composite wood used in fitness benches and other products.
The Lacey Act is in the final expansion stage and all imports of “plant” products, including wood products, must now be declared upon entry into the U.S. Non-compliance with the Lacey Act is a felony offense with violators subject to fines and imprisonment.
APHIS provides two options for filing declarations online: The Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), and the Lacey Act Web Governance System (LAWGS). More information and guidance on declarations can be found on the APHIS website.
An individual or company can be charged with a misdemeanor offense or civil penalties for failing to exercise “due care” in determining that the wood used in products was harvested legally. ‘Due care’ is defined as “The degree of care which a reasonably prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstance.” A 2021 violation of the Lacey Act for importing illegally harvested wood led to $200,000 in restitution to the country of origin and a fine.
The government does not have to establish any level of knowledge on the part of the person regarding the illegal nature of the product to forfeit it: civil forfeiture of illegally harvested wood products may be imposed on a strict liability basis.
APHIS is offering free training for Lacey Act compliance through the International Wood Products Association (IWPA). More information on free Lacey Act compliance training can be found here.
For questions, please contact Bill Sells, SVP, Government & Public Affairs, at [email protected].