Ethical Wood Products: A Lacey Act Summary

Wood products, particularly wood flooring and siding are our trade here at BuildDirect. In Western culture, the widespread use of paper and wood products is so extensive that sometimes we completely forget that many everyday products would not exist without the forestry industry, from postage stamps, to guitars, to bowling lanes.

An important point where forestry products are concerned is where our lumber is coming from.  This isn’t just an economic question. But, it’s also a question of ethics. After all, with a rightly rising interest in sustainability in the Twenty-First century, the question of where natural products are sourced, how they’re sourced, and how that information is tracked is tremendously important, perhaps even more so than ever before.

With this rise in awareness, has also come new legal permutations as well.  So, what are they, and how do they affect you, the consumer?  Well, let’s take a look.


One of the most important series of regulations where ethically-sourced lumber is concerned is the Lacey Act,  named after a turn of the century – 19th to 20th, that is – U.S Senator John F. Lacey, who sought to put a wildlife and natural resources protection act in place to deter poaching and illegal importation of plants and animals.  In more recent years, the Lacey Act has been evoked to extend to wood products.

Lumber Industry

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A good deal of the reason for this has been to curtail illegal logging practices, and to ensure that the species are protected from clear cutting and other drastically damaging practices that endanger them. The act was amended in May of 2008 in the light of widespread cases of these kinds of practices, and the result was, among others, a unification of process where the forestry industry, and wood products vendors are concerned.

An important addition that calls wood products vendors to be accountable is the requirement for documentation.  The path of a product from harvest to sale must be documented, judged against strict standards to ensure the ethical quality of the entire supply chain.  This means vendors like us who wish to import wood products into the United States (which we do), and suppliers have to be on the same page, with the paperwork to all sourced products tracing the steps along the way.

There is good and bad with this, of course. Companies who respect the values of sustainability as we do can clearly appreciate being associated with an industry, more specifically with suppliers, who care about the same issues we do when it comes to ethical harvesting and importation practices. Yet, there has been controversy over jurisdiction, with some countries upholding different standards than those outlined in the Lacey Act.  The results have been misunderstandings in many cases, resulting in some pretty draconian consequences for those who may not necessarily be “the bad guys” that the spirit of the Act is seeking to penalize.

But, overall the Act is in place ideally to increase safeguards against unethical harvesting and importation practices across a supply chain where natural materials like wood products are concerned. Part of this process clearly is in place to protect the species being drawn upon for a source of saleable goods. But, another part of it is about protecting the values and sensibilities of the end user; you the consumer, or the contractor working on behalf of a client.

To learn more,  you can read the details of the Lacey Act on the U.S Department of Agriculture site.



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