Now you may be asking yourself, “Why would the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife services be raiding a major guitar manufacturer?”
The answer is because Gibson is accused of using woods that were illegally harvested in Madagascar, sending it to Germany and then importing it to the United States in an effort to get around The Lacey Act.
This was a law was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Iowa Representative John Lacey.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, commercial hunting of game was threatening to wipe out many species. The law made it illegal to hunt, capture, or fish for animals, birds and fish that were in danger of becoming extinct.
The law also prohibited the transportation of non-native species of animals, fish, and birds into the United States. This was the first federal conservation law.
In addition to protecting wildlife, it also protects plants that are facing possible extinction, which would include trees and prohibits introduction of foreign commerce that would introduce plants that would threaten the United States environment.
The law was amended in 2008 to include a broader range of plants with the intent of limiting logging and prohibiting import of endangered species of wood.
This past December newly filed court documents are expecting to result in criminal indictments against Gibson Guitar and its key staff. Gibson has been accused by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Middle Tennessee of illegally harvesting Madagascar rosewood and ebony.
Madagascar rosewood is a very fine product that is less porous than Brazilian rosewood, therefore less prone to cracks due to age. And while Madagascar rosewood is not illegal in itself, apparently the forest the wood came from was off limits.
Vintage guitar expert George Gruhn stated to the press, “They've had a change of government over there, and the new government appears to be rather corrupt and is working with anyone who will rape the environment for a quick profit and give them kickbacks, is the way it looks. I'm really rather befuddled by this whole situation, Gibson has an extremely good track record on environmental and conservation issues."
The head of the Gibson Guitar Corporation, Henry Juszkiewicz has temporarily stepped down from his position on the board of The Rainforest Alliance. Gibson issued a press release stating they are fully cooperating with agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
During the 2009, raid government agents carried off boxes of wood, guitars, computers, and files. In a lawsuit filed this December, the U.S. Attorney’s office for Middle Tennessee is seeking official forfeiture of six guitars partially made of ebony, as well as other pieces of the rare wood.
I own an older Gibson guitar. Which I cherish. The company has always had a rock solid reputation.
Perhaps Gibson was innocent of knowledge of the woods origin, if they purchased it from a non-associated wood seller. Gibson's reputation has been spotless. I'm certain they would not do anything to diminish their status. Whether or not any wrongdoing occurred will only come out in a trial.
|Smartwood Gibson Les Pauls|
But the top of each guitar was made of a different type of sustainable, “smartly harvested” wood.
In other ironic Gibson news, the company has sued a toy manufacture named WOWWEE USA INC. and major retailers that carry their products including Wal-Mart, Amazon.com, Big Lots, K Mart, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walgreen Co, Best Buy, eBay and others.
This toy is a representation of a popular guitar, that is embossed on a flat guitar-shaped board. The toy includes sensors that make “heavy-metal” guitar-like sounds from a built-in processor. The company also manufactures a “amplifier” that is also embossed on a flat board. It won the distinction of Toy of the Year.
The guitar sells for around $20 U.S. dollars. Gibson was awarded an injunction recently for a trademark dispute stating images of the Les Paul, Flying V and Explorer guitars were used without permission of Gibson Guitars.
Can you spot the fake Gibsons?