On May 31, 2024, the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published a Federal Register notice announcing the seventh phase of the Lacey Act’s import declaration requirement, adding enforcement of Phase VII will begin on December 1, 2024. Known as “the United States’ oldest wildlife protection statute,” the Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 3371–3378) went into effect in 1900 and prohibits importing, exporting, transporting, selling, receiving, acquiring, or purchasing any illegally taken wildlife, fish, or plant. In 2008, Congress expanded the Lacey Act’s protections, adding, among other amendments, a prohibition to import certain plants, including plant products, without an import declaration. Since 2008, APHIS has phased in what plants and plant products are subject to the import declaration regime, and the newest phase adds all remaining plant products in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) that are not 100% composite materials.

As acknowledged by a press release issued by APHIS, Phase VII “includes the broadest range of items” covering a myriad of plants and plant products spanning twenty-six HTS chapters. The press release notes that the newest phase is so comprehensive in scope that “[i]f an importer imports items that contain plant products, but do not currently file a Lacey Act [import] declaration, they likely will need to file [now] under Phase VII.” Items covered by Phase VII include industrial or medicinal plants, handbags, plywood, laminated wood, tools, matches with natural wood stems, products of natural cork, products of bamboo and rattan, footwear, and more. The full range of items can be found on APHIS’s dedicated Lacey Act webpage

Enforcement of Phase VII, however, will not begin until “at least 6 months’ notice to persons and industries affected by [the] changes,” hence why enforcement will not start until December 1, 2024. 

Public Comment

APHIS is seeking public comments addressing the products to be covered under Phase VII, as well as on any additional HTS code(s) that should be included in the newest phase. Note that APHIS is only responsible for the plant provisions of the Lacy Act; the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for the wildlife provisions of the Lacey Act, and the Department of Homeland Security works with both agencies to oversee the import declarations at the borders and ports. Comments must be received by APHIS no later than July 30, 2024.