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The Lacey Act: What Importers Need to Know

Customs Clearance > The Lacey Act: What Importers Need to Know

The Lacey Act is a cornerstone of U.S. environmental legislation that plays a crucial role in the fight against illegal logging and the preservation of global biodiversity. Initially enacted in 1900 and significantly amended in 2008, the Act has broad implications for importers dealing with plant and plant-based products, including timber, paper, furniture, and musical instruments. As an importer, understanding the Lacey Act’s requirements, enforcement mechanisms, and the consequences of non-compliance is essential for ensuring your operations adhere to legal standards and contribute to global conservation efforts.

Purpose of the Lacey Act

The primary aim of the Lacey Act is to combat the trade in illegally sourced plant materials. By mandating that importers declare the source, species, and legality of their plant-based products, the Act helps protect endangered species and habitats from the detrimental impacts of illegal logging and trade.

How It Works

Importers are required to submit a Lacey Act declaration for covered commodities, detailing the product’s source, species, and compliance with applicable laws. This declaration is crucial for demonstrating compliance with the Act and ensuring that imported products do not contribute to environmental harm or violate international conservation laws.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are the key agencies responsible for enforcing the Lacey Act. These agencies collaborate to monitor imports, investigate potential violations, and enforce compliance with the Act’s provisions.

Products Covered

The Lacey Act covers a wide array of plant and plant-related products, including but not limited to timber, wood products, paper, furniture, and musical instruments made from wood. The Act also encompasses products containing plant materials and certain animal products, specifying a comprehensive approach to conservation through trade regulation.

Exemptions and Phase VII Changes

While certain items like common food crops, live plants, and non-plant materials with incidental plant content are exempt from the Lacey Act’s requirements, upcoming changes under Phase VII will expand the range of products needing declarations. This includes furniture, essential oils, and cork products not previously requiring declarations, signaling a significant broadening of the Act’s scope.

Filing a Declaration

The preferred method for filing a Lacey Act declaration is electronically through the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), although paper declarations are also accepted. Importers must provide detailed information about their products, including the scientific name, quantity, country of harvest, and legality of the plant material used.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Violating the Lacey Act can lead to severe penalties, including fines, confiscation of goods, and imprisonment. Non-compliance not only has legal repercussions but can also damage an importer’s reputation and business operations.

Preparing for Compliance

Importers should familiarize themselves with the Harmonized Tariff Schedule codes affected by the Lacey Act, understand the specifics of their supply chain, and ensure that all necessary declarations are accurately completed and filed. With Phase VII implementation on the horizon, staying informed about new requirements and preparing accordingly is more important than ever.

The Lacey Act plays a pivotal role in global conservation efforts, and compliance is not only a legal obligation for importers but also a contribution to the protection of the world’s natural resources. By adhering to the Act’s requirements, importers can avoid legal pitfalls and affirm their commitment to sustainable trade practices.

For a more detailed understanding and updates on the Lacey Act, refer to the comprehensive guides and resources provided by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and other relevant agencies.

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