The Lacey Act
What is the Lacey Act?
The Lacey Act deals with illegal “trafficking” of wildlife, fish, and plants. This law makes it illegal to import, export, sell, acquire, or purchase fish, wildlife or plants that are taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of U.S. or Indian law or in interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants taken possessed or sold in violation of State or foreign law. This covers all fish and wildlife and their parts or products, plants protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and those protected by state law. The penalties for violating the Lacey Act vary in severity based on the violator’s level of knowledge. If an individual or company doesn’t know what they are doing is illegal, then it will be based on whether they did everything in their power to determine if that product was illegal.
More importantly, in 2008, the Lacey Act was amended to include a wider variety of prohibited plants and plant products, including products made from illegally logged woods, for import.
What is considered a “plant” under the Lacey Act?
Under the Lacey Act, as amended, ‘‘Plant’’ means: ‘‘Any wild member of the plant kingdom, including roots, seeds, parts or product thereof, and including trees from either natural or planted forest stands.” There are some exclusions. Common cultivars (except trees) and common food crops are excluded from the definition of plant. In addition, a scientific specimen of plant genetic material that is to be used only for laboratory or field research and any plant that is to remain planted or to be planted or replanted is also excluded from the definition of plant, unless the plant is listed under the Endangered Species Act or a similar State law, or is listed in an appendix to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
When should I declare the Lacey Act on my imports?
Ask yourself these questions: 1.) Does the shipment contain plant material? 2.) Is it a formal entry? 3.) Is the HTS code on the Schedule? If the answer is consistently yes, then an importer needs to declare the shipment under the Lacey Act. You can download a handy decision tree chart here.
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