As a sustainable builder, it is important to research the origin of your lumber. For some builders, that means using third-party forestry certification. However, if you use timber of foreign origin, there is another reason you need to know where your wood came from: the Lacey Act.
Originally implemented in the early 1900s to combat illegal trade in animals, the U.S. amended the law in 2008 to slow the importation of illegally harvested timber. According to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the United States is the world’s leading consumer of wood products, 10% of which (excluding paper and pulp) is at “high risk” of illegal origin.
And although there haven’t been any recent changes to the law, the U.S. Department of Justice is starting to crack down on enforcement. Last August, well-known guitar maker Gibson had its Nashville, Tenn., facility raided by armed agents with search permits. The federal agents halted production, sent workers home, and confiscated wood that was imported from India. Gibson denies any wrongdoing but may still be facing criminal charges.
Interestingly enough, Gibson claims the wood was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Although the wood itself may have been legally harvested, the issue, in this case, was more about violating foreign law.
Regardless of the details surrounding the Gibson raid, the message is clear—know your lumber. Nadav Malin, president of BuildingGreen and Vision 2020 chairman, says this is crucial for builders that use any woods from tropical forests. “They are going to have to be more careful to make sure that their wood has a clean pedigree, that they know where it came from, and that it was not harvested illegally,” he says.