John Fletcher Lacey (May 30, 1841 – September 29, 1913) was an eight-term Republican United States congressman from Iowa's 6th congressional district. Lacey was born in New Martinsville, Virginia (now West Virginia). He moved to Iowa in 1855 with his parents, who settled in Oskaloosa. He attended the common schools and pursued classical studies. He also engaged in agricultural pursuits, and learned the trades of bricklaying and plastering. Prior to being elected to Congress, Lacey served one term are City Solicitor and was served on the Oskaloosa City Council from 1880-1883. After leaving politics behind, Lacey practiced law until his death in Oskaloosa.
MCCB Naturalist Laura DeCook wrote an article about Lacey in a recent MCCB quarterly newsletter. She wrote, "Lacey secured legislation to protect birds and other wildlife, national forests, and national parks and monuments. For this, Lacey was given the title "Father of Federal Conservation Legislation." When Lacey first became a congressman, he was ridiculed by other congressmen for his concerns about wildlife protection. Later, Lacey proved himself to be one of the most competent legislators in Washington and silenced their ridicules. President Theodore Roosevelt also relied heavily upon Lacey while pursuing his policy on conservation. By this time in history, conservation issues had become an important national and legislative concern."
The Lacey Act of 1894
Congressman Lacey was an enthusiastic defender of Yellowstone National Park and in 1894, in response to the inability of park administrators to punish poachers of the park's wildlife, Lacey sponsored legislation to give the Department of Interior authority arrest and prosecute law violators in the park. Although only known as the Lacey Act in the context of Yellowstone National Park, in May 1894 congress passed An Act To protect the birds and animals in Yellowstone National Park, and to punish crimes in said park, and for other purposes. which became the cornerstone of future law enforcement policies in the park.
The Lacey Act of 1900
Today, Lacey is most prominently known as the namesake of the Lacey Act of 1900. The Act, which is codified in as amended at 16 U.S.C. §§ 3371-3378, protects both plants and wildlife by creating civil and criminal penalties for a wide array of violations. Most notably, the Act prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold. Congressman Lacey introduced the bill in the spring of 1900. It was signed into law on May 25, 1900 by President William McKinley after passing both houses of Congress.
The Lacey Act of 1907
Another major legislative initiative—also known as "The Lacey Act," but approved in the lame duck session after his 1906 defeat and signed into law in his final week in Congress—made provision for the allotment of tribal funds to certain classes of Indians. These provisions were proposed after the passage of the Burke Act and the Dawes Act, both of which provided for the allotment of reservation lands to individual Indians, but not to communally owned trust funds. After much debate and several opposing arguments, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill into law on March 2, 1907.
The Antiquities Act
Lacey is also significant in the history of the conservation movement for his role in writing (with the help of anthropologist Edgar Lee Hewett) and enacting the Antiquities Act. The Act has been pivotal to the preservation of major archaeological sites in the Southwestern United States.