For some companies, the illegal harvesting of wood from protected forests is a big business. Getting a low cost deal on a lot of wood means a huge profit in the pocket of the company, and no one in corporate America is going to argue about profits after the free fall that was and still is resulting from the economic recession. In this light, it's not surprising that instrument manufacturers are under the microscope for the illegal importation of protected woods. Most recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided Gibson Guitars under the suspicion that they had imported Madagascar Rosewood illegally, therefore violating the Lacey Act.
The Lacey Act was implemented in May of 2008 as a means of environmental protection for forests around the world, but also gives the US the authority to officially charge those individuals who violate this law. The Lacey Act protects any plants or products made from plants that are imported into the US by requiring the importer to fill out a declaration of value. This protection extends to illegally harvesting from protected forests, which is what Gibson is currently under investigation for. Officers raided Gibson's offices and removed paperwork, computers, wood, and guitars in order to properly conduct an investigation. The claim is that Gibson purchased Rosewood from Madagascar illegally, and re-routed the import of the wood through another country in order to get it into the USA undetected.
Rosewood is a highly sought after material in guitars. It has a beautiful texture and a grain that makes it a visual stunner. Some say that the tone and resonance of a Rosewood guitar is superior to Mahogany. Given its popularity, it's no wonder that Gibson would be struggling to obtain it, although they have stated emphatically that they are simply part of a chain of purchasing and are fully cooperating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Gibson purchases from legal suppliers who are expected to follow all import and environmental laws when gaining their timber. The Rainforest Alliance has also backed up Gibson by stating that they are fully compliant and serious about legal wood.
Although the investigation is ongoing, it appears on the surface that the Gibson Company is going to be one of the first singled out to show the true power of the Lacey Act. It's the hope of environmentalists everywhere that this law decreases the rate of illegal harvesting and shows corporate America that destroying the environment for the sake of sales is not only wrong, but has serious consequences for those who violate it.