Dr Mari Momii, Independent Environmental Policy Analyst; Lecturer, Atomi University, Japan

Though the Lacey Act is an important piece of legislation for tackling the trade in illegal timber,  its impact on levels of illegal imports into the US is uncertain.

Uncut lumber sits stacked in the yard at the sawmill of the Doll Lumber Co. in Southington, Ohio, US. Photo by Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images.Uncut lumber sits stacked in the yard at the sawmill of the Doll Lumber Co. in Southington, Ohio, US. Photo by Getty Images.

This paper is part of a broader Chatham House study which assesses illegal logging and the associated trade. 

Efforts to tackle the problem of illegal logging and related trade have continued in the United States; the Lacey Act amendments in 2008 have influenced behaviour within the industry and high-profile enforcement cases have increased awareness of the issue. 

The impact of the Lacey Act on levels of illegal imports into the US is uncertain. The proportion of imports of high-risk timber-sector products is estimated to have declined since 2010, while that of paper-sector products has stayed at about the same level: in 2013, high-risk imports were estimated to comprise five per cent and two per cent of the totals respectively. However, there has been a significant shift in the types and sources of high-risk products coming into the country, reflecting changes in the global timber industry: a growing proportion is coming from China and comprises more highly processed products such as furniture.

Though the Lacey Act is an important piece of legislation for tackling the trade in illegal timber, several implementation and enforcement challenges have arisen since the amendments were enacted, in particular the interpretation of ‘due care’. Improvements to the procedure for processing import declaration forms are also required to ensure effective enforcement of the act. In order to effectively tackle illegal logging and the related trade, the US government should also continue to encourage its trading partners to strengthen their forest governance.