Importers of most solid wood products, such as lumber and carpentry, pursuant to the Lacey Act, will need to file importer declarations beginning April 1, 2009. The Animal and Plant Heath Inspection Service (“APHIS”) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has now published the schedule for implementing the new importer declaration requirements. Importers of more heavily processed wood products, such as plywood and packing crates, and importers of wood pulp, will need to start filing importer declarations beginning October 1, 2009. Importers of paper products and wooden furniture need to start filing importer declarations beginning April 1, 2010. See the complete schedule here.

The Lacey Act, as amended, makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase any plant, with some limited exceptions, taken in violation of any U.S. or foreign law that protects “plants,” defined to include most trees. Section 3 makes it unlawful to import certain plants and plant products without an import declaration. The declaration must contain, among other things, the scientific name of the plant, value of the importation, quantity of the plant, and name of the country from where the plant was harvested.

APHIS is working with Customs to modify Customs’ Automated Commercial System (“ACS”) to enable importers to provide the new declarations electronically. Should the necessary modifications be delayed past April 1, 2009, APHIS expects to delay enforcement of the importer declaration requirement until ACS is available for that purpose.

APHIS may add other products containing wood fiber to these requirements, based on public comments, which it solicited in the same notice announcing the implementation schedule. However, it promises to give importers at least six months notice before the effective date of any such additions.

Importers likely will want to examine carefully the implementation schedule, and may want to participate in the public comment process to protect their interests. Comments are due on April 6, 2009