The Lacey Act and FSC
Type: Newsletter Article
On July 25th, the leadership of the House of Representatives canceled a vote on H.R. 3210, the “RELIEF Act,” which proposed to weaken the Lacey Act. FSC joined a coalition of forest products companies, workers, conservation groups, and musicians to urge Congress not to support the RELIEF Act, arguing it would hurt US jobs and the environment.
So for now, the Lacey Act remains the law of the land. Originally adopted in 1900 to protect US wildlife, the Act was amended in 2008, making it illegal to trade (import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, purchase) any plant or plant product taken in violation of federal, state or relevant foreign laws.
With this amendment, the Lacey Act became the first national law in the worldwide fight against the illegal timber trade.
Companies trading forest products into the US or between individual US states must provide with each shipment a declaration to the relevant authorities presenting the countries of harvest and the species involved. And all involved in the trade are expected to apply “due care,” meaning they have taken appropriate measures to ensure that no illegal forest products are involved in their trade.
Unlike the EU Timber Regulation, the Lacey Act does not prescribe what such a “due care” approach should consist of, which means that private initiative as well as legal jurisprudence will over time clarify what is sufficient. Another difference is that the Lacey Act goes beyond the direct protection of forests, for example, prohibiting the trade of forest products shipped in violation or exporting laws.
FSC’s response to the Lacey Act
FSC strongly supports governmental action to ban the trade of illegally harvested timber. Illegal harvest can lead to deforestation, forest degradation, and pollution of water and other resources for forest dependent communities. It can also include unacceptable working, payment and contractual conditions, and corruption, tax evasion and questionable profit appropriations.
The presence of illegal timber in the market also directly impacts FSC’s mission, as it exerts negative pressure on the prices for timber and forest products (estimates are between -7% and -16%), undermining the economic viability of investments required for responsible forest management and forest products consumption.
Legality alone is not a guarantee against forest degradation, biodiversity loss, violation of worker and community rights, etc. And national legislation in timber-producing countries is not a guarantee of ecologically and socially sound forest management practices, protection of High Conservation Value Forests, and prohibition of natural forest conversion. That is why FSC promotes going beyond legality to pursue FSC certification.
FSC’s role in complying with the Lacey Act
The first requirement for any FSC forest management certificate is compliance with relevant national and international laws. So working with FSC certified forest products is good “due care” practice.
However, if a forest product enters the US after having been processed by more than one company up the supply chain, it is not always possible for the importer to receive automatically from its FSC-certified supplier the necessary information on the country of origin and/or the species used. This issue is being addressed now through development of an Online Claims Platform, which is due to be completed by the end of 2013.
While FSC can be a part of a company’s “due care,” it is not a guarantee against violation of certain export laws (such as those focused on value-added manufacturing). This means that even FSC-certified importing companies have to remain vigilant that the exporting company did have the right to export the forest product according to the laws of the country of origin.
FSC is an active player in defending the Lacey Act
The Lacey Act is currently under pressure, with some companies and some politicians working to weaken the impact of it.
On October 14, 2011, Representative Jim Cooper (Democrat of Tennessee), introduced legislation called the “Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness (RELIEF) Act.” The RELIEF Act seeks to amend the Lacey Act to limit the application of the 2008 amendments that address illegal forest products.
FSC is an active member of both the Forest Legality Alliance and the Lacey Act Coalition, and is working with NGO’s and companies in cooperative advocacy efforts to maintain the Lacey Act’s requirements prohibiting the trade of illegal forest products.
For more detailed information about the Lacey Act, please visit: http://forestlegality.org/laws-policies/lacey-act, and http://forestlegality.org/files/fla/lacey_act_faq_en.pdf.
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