The Guyana Forestry Commission is working to ensure that all timber exporters understand the intricacies of the US Lacey Act and avoid the penalties attached with non-compliance.
Signed into law more than a century ago by President William McKinley on May 25, 1900, the Lacey Act protects plants and wildlife by creating civil and criminal penalties for an array of violations. Chief among these is the prohibition from trading in wildlife, fish and plants that have been illegally taken, transported or sold. In the years since its inception the Act has been amended numerous times but the Amendment of most interest to Guyana is the one made on May 22, 2008, which deals with the prevention of illegal logging practices.
The Commission has embarked on another of their media education campaigns as they inform loggers and timber exporters of the new documentation requirements that they need to meet. In this week’s bulletin, the need to state whatever species of wood product is in a shipment is explored. In the bulletin, it is pointed out that if there are multiple species or genera in a shipment of material or in a composite wood product, then these also need to be stated.
In mid-July, a team from the US met with the Ministry of Agriculture and other local forestry representatives. Among them were Gary Lougee, a Geospatial Analyst of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Elizabeth Baldwin, a Compliance Specialist on the Lacey Act.
The discussions centered on the requirements for forest product exports and around the main prohibitions of the Amendment to the Act. In keeping with its status as one of the oldest conservation laws, the Act makes it a federal offense to trade in ‘illegal or “tainted” plants and plant-based products’ even when the action that has made the product illegal or ‘tainted’ did not occur in the United States. The Act combats global issues such as illegal harvesting of forest products, trading these products without paying necessary duties or fees, smuggling or stealing them. It does this by requiring that importers declare not only the species they are taking into the US but where those products are sourced from. The requirement for sourcing information calls for exporters to account for the products that they send out of the country so that the chain of information never gets broken.
Despite this requirement, the Lacey Act website at http://www.laceyactresources.com points out that while the heaviest burden lies on the shoulders of importers, distributors and retailers at the US end, these folks should also be ‘asking some questions’ of their suppliers. According to the site, however, ‘Foreign companies and individuals can also be prosecuted under Lacey and in some previous Lacey cases (for fish and wildlife, not wood), foreign nationals have been arrested during a visit to the United States and subsequently tried and jailed.’
It was also pointed out that more international markets are working towards legality tracing in the supply of forest related and other products – citing political efforts in Japan and the United Kingdom.
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