For lumber importer J. Gibson McIlvain and other major players in the industry, the 2008 addition to the Lacey Act bears consideration. The 100-year-old law, which was originally intended to encourage legal harvesting and trade of various plants, now regulates the lumber industry as well. If this is news to you and your business involves trading or utilizing lumber in any way, there are some basics that you definitely need to know.
1. Theoretically, any person or company that’s part of the supply chain or the chain of custody relating to “tainted” wood is subject to seizure and criminal prosecution. However, realistically, no one past the lumber importer in the chain of custody is legally obligated to document the legality of the wood or wood product’s origin and trade.
2. Like many other legal concerns, ignorance of the law is indefensible; however, in Lacey Act violations cases, the burden of proof lies with the US government. In order for confiscation and fines to be enforced through civil action, there must be clear proof of the illegal issues surrounding the wood.
3. In order for criminal penalties to apply, the government bears the burden of proof regarding the company’s or individual’s failure to conduct “due diligence” in ascertaining the legality of the wood. While certification through the FSC or other industry-standard program may not eliminate the potential for civil prosecution, it does demonstrate due diligence and thus helps to protect importers against criminal charges being brought against them.
4. Since the said goal of the Lacey Act is to protect forests from illegal logging and smuggling, it allows for the US government to prosecute offenders for violations of international and local laws. To clarify, under the Lacey Act, an American company could be criminally prosecuted by the US government for violating laws in a country far away.
5. One result of the Lacey Act is frustration on the part of the lumber importer, prompting decreasing amounts of imported wood and increasing the market for domestic wood. Whether that goal is an unintended result or a creative marketing ploy is something many affected companies debate.
6. Even though the Lacey Act focuses on globally sourced wood, it also has applications for lumber sourced in the US. This kind of violation is possible when foreign companies use domestic wood to construct products that are then imported into the US. (Issues that could come up might have to do with wood taken from the wrong side of a property line.) Without proper documentation, even American lumber could be flagged for violations upon re-entry to the US.
For a much more thorough treatment of the implications of the Lacey Act for lumber importer concerns, this website and the resources offered there may be helpful to you. In the meantime, you can be assured that lumber importer J. Gibson McIlvain certainly takes due diligence in documenting every link of our lumber’s supply chain. For more information on how McIlvain Company keeps its lumber legal, check out these selections from the McIlvain blog: