Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


Katrina Outland


Most discussions of poaching—the intentional, unlawful taking or killing of a living organism—focus on animals. However, poaching is also the primary threat for many prized collectible plants. The bizarre Venus flytrap has particularly drawn media attention as North Carolina struggles to save its endemic State Carnivorous Plant from extinction. Existing federal plant protection laws are sparse and either ineffective (in the case of the Endangered Species Act) or underutilized (in the case of the Lacey Act). Traditional poaching enforcement methods, which target individual poachers with small fines, are designed for animal poaching, and fail to adequately protect plants. Not only do enforcement officers have difficulty finding plant poachers, but poverty, drug use, and cultural traditions often provide incentives that small fines do little to deter. North Carolina has taken one alternative approach by increasing deterrence through stricter penalties, including jail time. Another alternative approach is using the Lacey Act to enforce state laws, as modeled by a maple-poaching case in Washington State. This comment argues that a combination of these two approaches may best protect the Venus flytrap—and avoid the inequities of traditional enforcement—by targeting upstream buyers and resellers of poached plants with more severe penalties.

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