Lacey Act 2008

  • Date: May 09, 2011
  • Source: Admin
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The Lacey Act was first introduced by Iowa Congressman John Lacey in the spring of 1900. It was signed into law by President William McKinley on May 25, 1900. The original Act was directed more at the preservation of game and wild birds by making it a federal crime to poach game in one state with the purpose of selling the bounty in another. It was also concerned with the potential problems of the introduction of non-native, or exotic species of birds and animals into native ecosystems.

The Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. 3371 et seq., the Act) as amended makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any plant, with some limited exceptions, taken or traded in violation of the laws of the United States, a U.S. State or a foreign country.

  • The Lacey Act protects both plants and wildlife by creating civil and criminal penalties for a wide array of violations.
  • It prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold.
  • It underscores other federal, state, and foreign laws protecting wildlife by making it a separate offense to take, possess, transport, or sell wildlife that has been taken in violation of those laws.
  • The Act prohibits the falsification of documents for most shipments of wildlife (a criminal penalty) and prohibits the failure to mark wildlife shipments (civil penalty).

The Lacey Act is administered by the Departments of the Interior, Commerce, and Agriculture through their respective agencies. These include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Amendments in the Act:

The Lacey Act has been amended several times since its inception in 1900. The most significant ones occurred in 1969, 1981, and 1988.

  1. The 1969 amendments expanded to include amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, and crustaceans.
  2. The maximum penalty was increased to USD 10,000 with possible imprisonment for one year.
  3. Additionally, the mental state required for a criminal violation was increased to "knowingly and willfully;" civil penalties were expanded to apply to negligent violations.
  4. In 1981, Congress removed the heightened proof standard of "willfully" from the statute, making "knowingly" the standard. This came in response to an increased illegal trade in fish and wildlife both domestically and abroad.
  5. Indigenous plants were also added to the protected species.
  6. With regard to penalty, the maximum civil fine was raised to USD 10,000. A bifurcated felony/misdemeanor scheme was created under the statute based on the conduct of the offender and the market value of the species at issue. Under the felony portion of the statute, the maximum penalty was set at USD 20,000 and/or five years imprisonment; misdemeanor violations were set at USD 10,000 and/or up to one-year imprisonment.
  7. The amendments also allowed for warrantless arrest for felony violations under the Act and expansion of the role of federal wildlife agents.
  8. In 1988, the roles of guiding or outfitting services were added to cover a new threat to big game species under the ambit of "sale." Prior to the amendment, big game guides who provided illegal hunts were immune to prosecution for violation based on commercial activity.
  9. The amendments also created a separate and distinct violation for the intended falsification of documents pertaining to the exporting, importing, or transporting of wildlife, fish, or plants.

Specific Additions

  1. It is unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase (in interstate or foreign commerce) any plant taken in violation of U.S. or foreign law that protects plants.
  2. It is unlawful to falsify documents, accounts or records of any plant covered by the Act.
  3. It is unlawful to import certain plants and plant products without an import declaration.

The first two provisions of the amendment took effect in May 2008. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working with a larger interagency group composed of representatives from U.S. Forest Service, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Council on Environmental Quality, and Department of Commerce, to implement the new provisions.

Impact of Import Declaration enforcement on forest products including paper and pulp:

Under the amended Lacey Act, beginning April 1, 2009, importers are required to submit a declaration for certain plants and plant products. The declaration must contain, among other things, the scientific name of the plant, value of the importation, quantity of the plant, and name of the country from which the plant was harvested. Importers of wood-based products including printing paper and pulp will need to provide documentation, in the form of a declaration, showing compliance to the newly revised Act. Specifically, importers will be required to file an APHIS “Plant and Plant Product Declaration Form” (PPQ 505).

What is “illegal” under the Lacey Act?

There are two components to a violation of the Lacey Act. First, a plant must be taken, harvested, possessed, transported, sold or exported in violation of an underlying law in any foreign country or the U.S. This constitutes an illegally sourced plant. The scope of these underlying laws that can trigger a Lacey Act plant violation is limited to those laws which protect plants or regulate the following:

  • theft of plants;
  • taking plants from an officially protectedarea, such as a park or reserve;
  • taking plants from other types of “officiallydesignated areas” that are recognized by a country’s laws and regulations;
  • taking plants without, or contrary to, the required authorization;
  • failure to pay appropriate royalties, taxes or fees associated with the plant’s har­vest, transport or commerce or laws governing export or trans-shipment, such as a log-export ban.

The declaration requires the following information from importers:

  • The scientific name of the wood or wood product (including the genus and species) contained in the importation;
  • The value and quantity of the wood or forest product being imported; and
  • The name of the country from which the wood was harvested.

Member States' obligations

  • The Member States ensure that the manufacturers and the distributors comply with their obligations. They put in place structures which are responsible for:
  • monitoring product compliance with the safety requirement;
  • taking necessary measures as regards risk products and informing the Commission of the details.

Anyone who knowinglyviolates the declaration requirement is guilty of a felony, punishable by up to five years of imprisonment and/or a USD 250,000 fine; businesses are subject to a USD 500,000 fine.

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