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Aug 6, 2012 - Gibson Guitars, whom JTMP had covered in an 2011 post about the dust-up when federal agents raided their factory and confiscated wood said to be illegal, have reached an agreement with the US government admitting they imported rare, slow-growth wood that is protected by the Lacey Act. Gibson Guitars became a cause celebre for right-wingers and "Tea Partiers" as a symbol of government overreach, and the supposed "over regulation strangling American businesses and killing American jobs."
But now NBC News reports that the president of the company, David Berryman, got a memo from a subordinate in 2008 who was in Madagascar reporting that the wood was illegal to purchase and ship back to the states; but the company apparently went through with the deal despite his warning. Gibson Guitars came to an agreement with the government, and the government has agreed to drop all charges. Gibson Guitars has agreed to pay a $300,000 fine, forfeit over $200,000 worth of illegal wood, and they will also donate $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to promote the preservation of rare wood and other slow-growth trees that are endangered and protected. Read more on NBC News here.
This is the dilemma with guitarists and guitar manufacturers, can we build guitars in a sustainable way? Is slow-growth wood truly the ONLY tone wood we can use? JTMP supports efforts in the guitar world using synthetic and quick-replenishing wood to help solve this crisis, like Martin's OMC Cherry that uses wood that is grown and harvested in an "ecologically responsible manner". Remember, it takes 500 years for one of these slow-growth trees to mature, and only 5 minutes to cut it down.
WAPO has a great article about the controversy stirred up when federal officlas raided the Gibson Guitar plant over allegedly illegal, but definitley rare and exotic wood, that is disappearing from our planet. Guitar makers and players have been alalrmed at the enforecment of the Lacey Act, although so far no individual instruments have been confiscated. However, after poltical pressure Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) introduced a bill granting grandfather immunity for any guitar players out there who currently own an instrument made from rare and exotic woods. One musician, Steve Bryant, went so far to write a song telling the government, "Keep Your Hands Off Our Wood." The case is still pending, no charges have been filed.
Representatives Jim Cooper, Marsha Blackburn, and Mary Bono Mack have introduced a measure that would provide exemptions for owners of musical instruments made from rare and exotic woods from supposed "confiscation" through a grandfather clause, although the government has not focused on confiscating instruments from musicians. Charlie Welch, conservation coordinator at the Duke Lemur Center said, "I was disturbed to find on the sponsor's site a slanted portrayal of the bill, It strikes me that such statements, also lacking in full background of the bill, are designed to incite panic, hence support, from musicians and the music industry."
Read more on Mongabay.com here.
From The Tennessean:
"Two weeks ago, Gibson Guitar abruptly canceled plans for what was to have been a major business announcement: the launch of a partnership with Fiji to become the island nation’s exclusive buyer of mahogany to make the Nashville company’s high-end guitars.
Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz and his supplier had worked for months to pull off the deal, giving a $5,000 guitar to Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama last summer as a gesture of good will.
But the Fijian leader’s trip to Nashville didn’t materialize, the announcement was canceled and a hurried explanation from Gibson said the negotiations were continuing.
The on-again, off-again deal between Gibson and Bainimarama — a military strongman who has taken control of many of the island’s resources and denied free elections since a 2006 coup, according to human rights groups — illustrates the uncertainties facing guitar makers such as Gibson."