Lacey Act: Landmark Legislation with Global Impacts for Forest Conservation

Leading the World with a Policy to Protect Forests from Harmful Trade

The United States Lacey Act, named after Iowa Congressman John Lacey, was originally passed in 1900, and its impacts have given it renown as the most successful conservation law. Initially aimed at combatting illegal wildlife trafficking, the Act made it a federal crime to poach game in one state with the purpose of selling it in another.

On May 22, 2008, after several years of successful campaigning by EIA and its allies, the U.S. Congress amended the Lacey Act to prohibit import and trade of illegally harvested plants, expanding the law to combat illegal logging and associated trade. The Lacey Act also requires importers to declare the genus, species, and country of harvest as well as other relevant information important to the timber or wood product’s origin, encouraging much greater due care and creating more transparency in the supply chain.

This groundbreaking law has created dramatic changes in the still heavily unregulated global wood products industry and led to systemic shifts in the practices of suppliers, manufacturers, and importers within the U.S. and around the world. Early success has helped spark similar policy reforms in other major timber consuming markets, including the European Union and Australia. More recently, Japan has also passed legislation designed to crack down on imports of illegal timber. The Lacey Act is a crucial tool to combat illegal logging and associated forest destruction worldwide, and an October 2015 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists confirmed that U.S. imports of illegal wood have declined significantly since the Lacey Act was amended in 2008, but significant amounts of illegal wood continue to enter the market. Much more remains to be done to solidify the market transformation that began with the law’s passage in 2008.

By facilitating the coalition of industry, labor, and environmental groups that helped make the 2008 amendments a reality, EIA is working to ensure the Lacey Act’s full implementation and enforcement under the law.

EIA’s Objectives to Support the Lacey Act:

  • Support U.S. enforcement agencies to work together to fully implement and enforce the Lacey Act, using the range of legally available civil and criminal measures.
  • Inform companies about how to conduct proper due care and the need to track their material back to the forest, ensuring they only buy wood from legal sources
  • Support the development, dissemination, and use of new wood tracking and identification technologies in order to facilitate both compliance with and enforcement of the Lacey Act.
  • Advocate for adequate funding for the responsible U.S. government agencies to implement the U.S. Lacey Act, including investments in technology, personnel, and training.
  • Engage U.S. authorities to work together with responsible agencies in forest countries and other major consuming countries to enforce the law and stop illegal logging and associated trade.
  • Support promotion of the U.S. Lacey Act in international fora to contribute to the establishment of global norms against illegal logging, and to encourage more countries to pass legislation against trade in illegally harvested timber and associated products

EIA’s Recent Impacts and Results:


  • Gibson Guitar admits to importing illegal wood, agrees to pay 600,000 dollars in fines as a result.
  • Lumber Liquidators pleaded guilty to a criminal felony related to violating the Lacey Act by importing flooring products made with illegal timber. The company was sentenced to pay over 13 million in fines and penalties, and will be on probation under direct oversight of the DOJ until 2020.
  • In September 2015, Peruvian timber with illegal origin was intercepted by U.S. agents in port of Houston, following tips and evidence from Peruvian agencies. In June 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice carried out a search warrant at the company Global Plywood, the importer of some of the illegal timber from Peru in Houston.


  • As part of its efforts to track incoming Lacey Act declarations forms required for timber products (Form 505), the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) introduced the “Lacey Act Web Governance System” (LAWGS), an online database that allows traders and importers to file the required information electronically and collects them in one place.
  • The U.S. forensics lab in Oregon has implemented new and improved technologies to facilitate identification of species and origin in illegal timber cases.
  • New regulations were put in place to allow full implementation of the Lacey Act declaration requirement, which requires importers to identify species, country of harvest, and legality of timber and wood products upon entry to the United States