U.S. Lacey Act

The U.S. Lacey Act is one of the world’s primary legislative examples of wildlife preservation and forest conservation.

Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR), champion of the groundbreaking 2008 amendments U.S. Lacey Act, addresses the press on Capitol Hill

Originally passed in 1900, the U.S. Lacey Act makes it a federal crime to poach game in one state with the purpose of selling the bounty in another. Introduced in the House of Representatives by Iowa Congressman John Lacey over a century ago, the Lacey Act has been revised several times turning it into one of the broadest and most comprehensive policies in the federal arsenal designed to combat wildlife crime.

On May 22, 2008, the U.S. Congress approved a new amendment to the Lacey Act, making the policy capable of combating both wildlife crime and illegal logging. This has created dramatic changes in the still heavily unregulated global timber industry and led to systemic shifts in the practices of importers, manufacturers, and timber companies within both the U.S. and around the world.

The United States, the world’s largest consumer of wood products, is a central player in driving the trade in illegally sourced timber. It has been estimated that U.S. wood consumption of high-risk timber and wood products (not including pulp and paper) was as high as 10% of annual wood imports - $3.8 billion - in 2006. Until 2008, even the most blatantly stolen timber was “legal” upon reaching American shores due to the lack of laws preventing the import and sale of illegal wood. Unchecked, the U.S. timber industry would continue to illegally exploit the world’s forests without anyone being held accountable.
The rising pressures of illegal logging on the world’s forest resources has had devastating effects on invaluable ecosystems, indigenous communities, and local attempts at good forest governance. As it became clear that amending the Lacey Act would be an effective way to address these issues, a precedent setting coalition of environmental, industry, and labor groups, including EIA, successfully backed U.S. policymakers pushing for new amendments to the U.S. Lacey Act that would transform the timber and wood products market and reduce the harm caused by illegal logging.

To further transparency and focus, the new requirements also mandate that importers must declare the species, country of origin and other relevant information important to the wood or product's origin. Although young, this legislation's early success has helped push similar policy changes in other timber/wood product consumer countries, including the EU and Australia.

While the passage of the 2008 Lacey Act amendments is a landmark step, the work is far from over. To be effective, the U.S. Government must also fully implement and enforce the provisions under the law. Similarly, the more businesses and global governments learning about the Lacey Act, the greater the impact it will have on illegal logging worldwide. As part of the collation that helped make the 2008 amendments a reality, EIA is committed to also ensuring the Lacey Act is a success in practice and continues to push for the Lacey Act's full implementation and enforcement under the law.

For additional information, Click on the following: Background, CITES, and Resources

U.S. Lacey Act Resources

• The U.S. Lacey Act Frequently Asked Questions


• The U.S. Lacey Act Separating Myth From Reality


• Official U.S. Lacey Act Legislation as Amended May 22, 2008


• The U.S. Lacey Act Tackling the Illegal Trade in Timber, Plants and Wood Products: Funding for Implementation in 2012


• Blog Post “The Lacey Act Has Teeth: U.S. Gets Serious About Illegal Logging”
• Animated Video The Lacey Act: The first (ENG) (ESP)


• Video Funding the U.S. Lacey Act: Curbing the Illegal Timber Trade

What They are Saying

The US has the capacity to precipitate a global fightback against illegal logging. The legislation proposed is elegant and non-bureaucratic… It adds no burden to the people who are already getting it right and it incentivizes those who know they are currently getting it wrong, prompting them to do the right thing. That is what good law should be all about.” --Barry Gardiner, The U.K. Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Forestry, October 16, 2007, in written testimony to a hearing on the Legal Timber Protection Act

The American Forest & Paper Association, the Hardwood Federation, and the Environmental Investigation Agency – deserve a tremendous amount of credit for sticking with this and finding a solution that everyone could support.  I applaud them for their hard work, the maturity with which they approached the issue, and the respect that they showed each other throughout the process. Their conduct is model for how things should work in Washington.” –Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), August 1, 2007, upon introducing the Combat Illegal Logging Act on the Floor of the U.S. Senate