(For imports of plant materials or products)

At ports of entry, CBP and APHIS agents are present to inspect plant material shipments, but FWS may enter the scene as an enforcement agency on plant violations which are discovered. If there’s any doubt about FWS’s involvement in actively enforcing plant product violations, on November 17, 2009 it was none other than U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials who raided Gibson’s facilities in Nashville and seized raw wood, guitars, and computers. Thus, FWS is involved in enforcement regardless of whether or not the port of entry clearance forms involved are the FWS Declaration Form 3-177 (for animal wildlife) or other non-FWS forms such as the APHIS PPQ Forms 505, 585 or 621 (plant wildlife – see details below).

The APHIS PPQ 505 is used only for importing plant materials, and it’s absolutely critical that required species-specific permits and other declaration forms for the shipment be completed prior to the shipment arriving at a port of entry. [For information on exporting plant products (woods) see the USDA “CITES I-II-II Timber Species Manual”: as of April 2011, “Re-exportation of CITES Protected Timber Species” begins on page 3-1, and “Determine Which Documents Are Needed” begins on page 3-20. See also SECTION 13].

These forms can be tricky to figure out, such as being self-referencing and taking you back where you started, or saying a form needs to be filed but then not supplying specific details of how to do that. Since an import/export broker must handle the paperwork anyway it would be best to consult them about exactly what forms might be needed. But it still pays to be as familiar as possible with all the regulations and forms because many of the “experts” at brokerage firms don’t really know what they’re doing when it comes to wildlife or plant declarations and dealing with musical instruments or antiques, and it helps if you can suggest details they may not be aware of, or can at least ask the right provocative questions.

PPQ 505: Plant and Plant Product Declaration Form. No fees involved.
As far as the Lacey Act is concerned, a PPQ Form 505 is required for all Lacey Act material being imported into the U.S. – no Lacey Act documentation is required for exports. Full details on APHIS's Lacey requirements can be found here. This reporting is not limited to only listed (protected/endangered/threatened, or CITES Class I, II, and III) species, but the form requires a declaration for all plant species regardless of their protected or non-protected status:

You are required to complete this form if you are importing any of the following: Any wild member of the plant kingdom, including roots, seeds, parts, or products thereof, and including trees from either natural or planted forest stands, except: 1. Common cultivars, except trees, and common food crops (including roots, seeds, parts, or products thereof).

Interestingly, Congress chose not to define an official purpose for these Lacey Act declaration requirements, but declarations can serve several purposes including but not limited to data acquisition (for the U.S. Census Bureau) and general accountability. Prior to the recent amendments Lacey had already required similar declarations for imports (as well as exports) of wildlife.

For plant materials and products a number of USDA/APHIS species-specific permit application forms are available, including:

PPQ 585: Application for Permit to Import Timber or Timber Products (logs and lumber). No fees involved.

PPQ 621: Application for Application for Protected Plant Permit to Engage in the Business of Importing, Exporting, or Re-exporting Protected Plants (CITES). The cost is $70.00.

A different USDA import permit is required for any animal material (such as some bone, ivory, or leather) that could possibly introduce exotic animal diseases into the U.S. However, no permitting or restrictions apply to products or materials made from amphibians, fish, reptiles, aquatic species, and shellfish (such as mother of pearl and abalone shell) which meet the standards shown in “Guidelines for Importation #1104”.

Along with the APHIS plant declaration forms, any animal products involved in a shipment must be separately declared on FWS Form 3-177; if limited to only shell materials or inlays, then all that’s required by USDA/APHIS is to have the following statement included somewhere in the entry documents (such as on the Commercial Invoice or Customs Declaration forms):

NOTE: This shipment may enter the U.S. without USDA import permits or restrictions. Products do not include any equine, ruminant, swine or avian species or their materials (such as in transport media or stabilizers), and have not been inoculated with or exposed to any livestock or poultry disease agents or antigens.

Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, who frameth mischief by a law? Psalms 94:20

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