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  • Sep 5th, 2011 @ 2:55pm

    let's get the facts straight about this action

    Dear Matt and commentators,

    While I respect your position in the post “Gibson CEO: US Government Won’t Even Tell us What Law They Think We’ve Violated” (Sep. 2), I wanted to clarify some facts. I work for the Environmental Investigation Agency, a non-profit that has worked extensively on the problem of illegal logging and associated trade in wood products.

    The law the government thinks Gibson Guitars violated was the U.S. Lacey Act. While the government has not yet released a statement to the public on the case, this fact has been stated in multiple media accounts as well as the official affidavit that was filed to obtain a search warrant for the Fish & Wildlife Service’s August 24th raid and seizure of ebony and rosewood material, guitars and guitar parts. (This affidavit is unsealed and publicly circulating. Ref: “Affidavit in Support of Search Warrant #11-MJ-1067 A,B,C,D”.)

    The Lacey Act is a long-standing U.S. law that was amended most recently in 2008; it is an anti-trafficking statute which prohibits commerce of illegally-sourced wildlife, plants and wood products from either the U.S. or other countries. In this case, a judge granted the search warrant based on probable cause that Gibson imported wood that had been exported from India in violation of Indian laws. The import of illegally-sourced wood is a violation of a U.S. law.

    While an export restriction may not immediately appear to be connected to illegal logging, it is by no means irrelevant. It is common for countries to have bans and restrictions on export of logs or sawnwood; these laws are directly linked to forest management and protection efforts. They are often an important tool to help control export flows of illegally logged timber, and to ensure that the benefits of value-added processing contribute to development within these often poor countries.

    Enforcing the Lacey Act is not in the least an issue of undercutting US workers’ rights. The law was passed precisely to change the dynamics of a global trade that was undercutting US forest producers and wood products industry to the tune of 1 billion dollars annually, according to industry’s own figures.

    Like many new procedures, new laws like the 2008 Lacey Act amendments may create confusion and even fear in the short term, as companies adapt their practices and mindset. But these laws are necessary security measures for the protection of the world’ forests, and this adjustment process is part of creating a “new normal” that will prevent the trees so important to musical instrument makers and other wood industries from disappearing.

    Best regards,
    Andrea Johnson