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Lacey Act

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Date Posted: 01-01-2010

Passage of the Lacey Act in 1900 was prompted by growing concern about interstate profiteering in illegally taken game. Drafted and pushed through Congress by conservation-minded Representative John Lacey of Iowa, the Act made it illegal to transport from one state or territory to another any wild animals or birds killed in violation of state or territorial law.

In its original version, the Lacey Act focused on helping states protect their native game animals. Early
prosecutions documented large-scale interstate trafficking in illegally taken wildlife.

Congress amended the Lacey Act several times during its first century. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, lawmakers
expanded the statute’s prohibitions to cover international trade, uphold federal and foreign wildlife laws, and ban the importation of animals shipped under inhumane conditions. Amendments in 1981 reworked many of its
provisions and increased the penalties for wildlife trafficking.

Today, the Lacey Act makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, buy, or possess fish, wildlife, or plants
taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any federal, state, foreign, or Native American tribal law,
treaty, or regulation.

The Lacey Act has two main prohibitions:

Creates trafficking and false labeling offenses:

Unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase any fish or wildlife taken, possessed,
transported or sold in violation of state, tribal, foreign, or other U.S. law. Narrower protection for certain indigenous plants.

Unlawful to make or submit any false record, account, label for, or false identification of any fish or wildlife
transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

Lacey Act Pointers:

* The provisions of subsections 3372 and 3373 must be read together in order to find all the elements of a
misdemeanor or felony offense.

* The difference between a misdemeanor and felony offense can be determined by mental state, market value of the fish/wildlife/plant, and whether commercial conduct occurred.

* If the underlying violation is of state law, interstate commerce must be present to invoke the Lacey Act.

* The underlying or predicate law used to “trigger” cannot be one which has no relation to wildlife, but it need not have wildlife protection as its exclusive purpose.

* “Sale” and “purchase” can include guiding services

*Statute 3371 Definitions:

(a) The term “fish or wildlife” means any wild animal, whether alive or dead, including without limitation any wild
mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, mollusk, crustacean, arthropod, coelenterate, or other invertebrate, whether or not bred, hatched, or born in captivity, and includes any part, product, egg, or offspring thereof.



misdemeanor: Class A;
Up to one year in prison
Fines: $100,00- individual, $200,000- organization

Felony: Class E;
Up to five years in prison
Fines: $250,000- individual, $500,00- organization


Negligent trafficking violation; 3372(a)
Knowing violation of fraudulent marking prohibitions; 3372(d)

Marking requirement