The Lacey Act of 1900, or simply the Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 3371–3378) is a conservation law in the United States. Introduced into Congress by Rep. John F. Lacey, an Iowa Republican, the act was signed into law by President William McKinley on May 25, 1900.
The Lacey Act protects both plants and wildlife by creating civil and criminal penalties for a wide array of violations. It prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, transported or sold. The law is still in effect, although it has been amended several times.
This environmental legislation came under attack starting in 2009 when facilities of Gibson Guitar Corporation were raided and hardwoods that had been illegally harvested in Madagascar were seized. Gibson professed its innocence and accused the federal government of bullying. Gibson eventually admitted wrongdoing and settled the case in August 2012, saying it felt "compelled to settle as the costs of proving [the] case at trial would have cost millions of dollars and taken a long time to resolve."
In 1900, illegal commercial hunting threatened many game species in the United States. The original Act was directed at the preservation of game and wild birds, making it a federal crime to poach game in one state with the purpose of selling the bounty in another. The law prohibited the transportation of illegally captured or prohibited animals across state lines, and addressed potential problems caused by the introduction of non-native species of birds and animals into native ecosystems.
Today it is primarily used to prevent the importation or spread of potentially dangerous non-native species. The Lacey Act also makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any plant in violation of the laws of the United States, a state, an Indian tribe, or any foreign law that protects plants.
The Lacey Act was amended on May 22, 2008, when the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 expanded its protection to a broader range of plants and plant products (Section 8204. Prevention of Illegal Logging Practices).
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced a ban under the Act effective March 23, 2012, on the importation and interstate transportation of four species of constrictor snakes, due to the snakes' impact upon the Florida Everglades.
Gibson Guitar Corporation was raided twice by federal authorities between 2009 and 2011. In the raids, rosewood and ebony worth thousands of US dollars were seized. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claimed that the wood had been illegally logged in Madagascar or violated Indian export law. Gibson initially denied wrongdoing and insisted that the federal government was bullying them.
The United States Department of Justice filed a civil case against Gibson in June 2011, and in August 2012, Gibson settled by admitting to violating the Lacey Act and agreeing to pay a fine of $300,000 in addition to a $50,000 community payment.
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