Dispelling myths about the US Lacey Act

/ Jeremy Hance

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has released a document to dispel common myths related to the 2008 amendment to the Lacey Act, which makes it possible for the United States to support efforts to combat illegal logging both abroad and at home.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has released a document to dispel common myths related to the 2008 amendment to the Lacey Act, which makes it possible for the United States to support efforts to combat illegal logging both abroad and at home.

The Lacey Act makes it so that any wood that is harvested illegally in its native country now comes under domestic law and “anyone who imported, exported, transported, sold, received, acquired or purchased the wood products made from that illegal timber, who knew or should have known that the wood was illegal, may be prosecuted for violation of the Lacey Act,” according to the International Tropical Timber Organization.

Of course, such a law raises questions and difficulties among companies purchasing wood abroad. However, the EIA assures companies that it is very possible to comply with the Lacey Act.

For example, one ‘myth’ the document highlights is the criticism that it is impossible to know if someone down the supply chain is truly compliant with the Lacey Act. The EIA responds with these recommendations: “Know your supply chain and know your suppliers. Use suppliers you know and trust. Ask your suppliers if they know and trust their suppliers. Check with your colleagues in the industry and see who they trust (or who they do not trust). Establish long-term relationships rather than buying on spot markets. Make site visits if possible, do independent research on-line and through your business contacts, and ask tough questions.”

In response to the myth that illegal logging could not possibly be that big of an issue, the EIA says that “at least 10 percent of annual wood imports to the U.S. are estimated to be of illegal origin3. Illegal logging rates and practices vary dramatically by exporting country and species; as much as 80 percent of some countries’ wood products are estimated to be illegally harvested.”

The EIA further states that simply avoiding nations where illegal logging is rife, does not in any way guarantee that one will avoid illegal logging: “no matter what country you source from, including the United States or Canada, you should know—and be able to substantiate—as much as possible about the wood material’s origin.”

In addition, companies must also know and label using the correct scientific name of a species, failure to do so can lead to prosecution under more than just the Lacey Act.

“A buyer who does not know the scientific name of the wood product s/he is purchasing cannot always be sure s/he is not violating the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
(CITES) or other laws that protect endangered species,” according to the EIA.

Since compliance with the Lacey Act is determined under the legal definition ‘due care’, which means the “degree of care which a reasonably prudent person would exercise under the
same or similar circumstances,” the EIA advises a few ways in which companies can show they have practiced due care, including detailed record-keeping, on-site investigations of suppliers, employee training, confirming that suppliers are certified in their home country, and developing a compliance plan.

According to the EIA there are a number ‘red-flags’ that a supplier may be selling illegal wood, including products priced lower than market value, cash-only payments, bribery, and poor labeling of products.

To see the full document provided by the EIA: http://www.eia-global.org/PDF/Report–Mythbusters–forest–Jan10.pdf

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