Gibson Guitar Company Admits To Using Illegal Rainforest Woods, Settles With Government

Gibson Guiltar Showroom of Austin/ Nan Palmero/CC BY 2.0

A year ago John covered the raid on Gibson Guitars, where the US Fish and Wildlife Service suspected that the company was guilty of violations of the Lacy Act, which prohibits the importation of threatened woods and other materials. This was not the first time; The Wall Street Journal summarized the issue at the time:

The question in the first raid seemed to be whether Gibson had been buying illegally harvested hardwoods from protected forests, such as the Madagascar ebony that makes for such lovely fretboards. And if Gibson did knowingly import illegally harvested ebony from Madagascar, that wouldn't be a negligible offense. Pete Lowry, ebony and rosewood expert at the Missouri Botanical Garden, calls the Madagascar wood trade the "equivalent of Africa's blood diamonds."

Some believe that laws like the Lacey Act are sending jobs offshore, since other countries don't have the same restrictions. The Republicans and the Tea Party turned Gibson and its owner, Henry Juszkiewicz, who called the raids "arrogant [act of] federal power" into a cause celebre´; in May, the Republicans tried to kill the Lacey Act with the FOCUS (Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures Act of 2012) Act:

Calling the Lacey Act “a frightening example of overcriminalization,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), sponsor of the FOCUS Act, told the subcommittee the bill aims to “alter the Lacey Act by removing all references to ‘foreign law.’” Under his proposal, the FOCUS Act would also remove criminal penalties and instead institute a civil penalty system.

Now we learn from Andy Revkin that the Gibson has admitted that they knew that the ebony they were using was illegally harvested, and has copped a plea. According to Assistant Attorney General Moreno:

Gibson has acknowledged that it failed to act on information that the Madagascar ebony it was purchasing may have violated laws intended to limit overharvesting and conserve valuable wood species from Madagascar, a country which has been severely impacted by deforestation. Gibson has ceased acquisitions of wood species from Madagascar and recognizes its duty under the U.S. Lacey Act to guard against the acquisition of wood of illegal origin by verifying the circumstances of its harvest and export, which is good for American business and American consumers.

Illegal harvesting in Madagascar/ Wikipedia/CC BY 2.0

Of course, the Tea Party websites are all saying that Gibson was " forced to give in to Federal Government extortion". They don't care that 100,000 trees were cut down in Madagascar's national parks in 2009 alone. It's all about Obama.

Tags: Africa | Forestry

2014 Gift Guide

WHAT'S HOT ON FACEBOOK