Lacey Act Benefits American Logging and Forestry
The 111-year-old Lacey Act has recently been the subject of much debate in the wood and paper industry. The Lacey Act was originally passed to protect plants and wildlife by creating civil and criminal consequences for the illegal taking, transporting, or selling of these resources. In 2008, U.S. lawmakers passed an amendment to extend the act to cover wood and illegal logging practices. The amendment has created problems for some U.S. based companies, while others have benefited.
The Lacey Act requires all companies who are importing wood into the United States to document the product’s entire supply chain. This ensures that illegal forestry in developing countries is not profiting from U.S. capital. The enforcement of this act benefits wood product- makers by removing cheap, illegally logged wood from the U.S. market.
Other wood importers feel that the law is vague and could punish those who believe they are in compliance. Trying to stay in compliance requires complicated documentation of each supply chain, recording the wood’s journey from origin to retailer. Chris Martin, CEO of guitar maker C.F. Martin & Co., stated “compliance is complicated. The law requires the company, which buys rosewood from India and ebony from Africa, to document the entire supply chain of its purchases.” Martin explained that suppliers were wary to divulge information in fear of the guitar maker cutting them out of the purchase.
Many American companies have moved away from importing woods from Asia and Africa to logging domestically in order to abide by this law. This has helped American wood producers’ business. Some argue that the extra paperwork will not affect most producers in the lumber, wood, and paper industry as this applies to exotic woods. In recent news, the enforcement has been focused on musical instrument and high-end furniture manufacturers that use these exotic varieties in their production.
“The Justice Department has made it fairly clear that this is a law that they intend to enforce, and they will partner with other agencies on the ground to enforce the law,” said Laura Duncan, a San Francisco attorney who specializes in the act. Most believe that the amendment will focus on the larger, more sophisticated companies’ supply chain processes and buying patterns; however, the government’s choice of who to investigate is a matter of debate in the wood-products industry.