ANAHEIM, CA — In a vocal demonstration of support for the Lacey Act, a group of musicians joined environmentalists yesterday in a rally outside the NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA, to garner support for the forest conservation law and to stop illegal logging.
“Illegal logging for wood used in guitars and other instruments is helping to eat away at the irreplaceable forests of my country and the communities that depend on them,” said Razia Said, a singer from Madagascar who performed at Thursday’s event along with local musicians. Said also has been touring her native country to raise awareness on illegal logging.
Said is the founder of Musicians Against Illegal Logging, which has come out in direct opposition to the National Association of Music Merchants’ (NAMM) support of H.R. 3210.
Sponsored by Representatives Jim Cooper, Marsha Blackburn and Mary Bono Mack, H.R 3210, the Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness (RELIEF) Act, gives protection to consumers of foreign wood products made before May 22, 2008, when the Lacey Act Amendments were signed into law. People unknowingly in violation of the law cannot be penalized, nor can the government confiscate the property. The legislation was announced on Oct. 20, 2011, following the raid on Gibson Guitar for Lacey Act violations, and the subsequent publicity that resulted.
However, opponents of the bill claim it instead undermines efforts to reduce illegal logging while giving a “free pass” to imported items made from pulp, paper, composites and other non-solid wood products. The RELIEF Act also reduces fines to “a negligible” $250 for the first offense.
“This amendment would weaken one of our most important and effective environmental laws,” Jessica Lass of the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement from the rally on Thursday. “Deforestation and illegal logging is a major contributor to global warming and loss of biodiversity. Efforts to weaken this powerful tool must be rejected.”
Added Lisa Handy of the Environmental Investigation Agency, ”They call their proposal a ‘surgical fix’ but it’s actually a lobotomy that will strip the Lacey Act of the provisions that have made it successful in fighting illegal logging.”
"Rolling back protections against illegal logging is like poaching endangered species," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said. "As a society, we’ve moved beyond killing elephants for their ivory in order to make piano keys, and we certainly don’t need to decimate the world’s rainforests to decorate guitars. It’s particularly repugnant that this giveaway to illegal loggers is being justified in the name of music."
Added Kate Horner of Friends of the Earth, “The Feds aren’t coming to take your Les Paul. So why is NAMM lobbying against protection of the world’s forests in the name of music?”
Other speakers at the rally included Lafcadio Cortesi of Rainforest Action Network and Dr. Douglas Boucher, Director of the Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
In conjunction with the rally, a number of environmental groups also sent an open letter to NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond and Chairman Kevin Cranley urging them to reconsider the group’s support for the RELIEF Act. In the letter it states, “the Lacey Act amendments do not ‘make it illegal to buy products [that contain rare plant materials or wood] and travel with them,’ as stated in your promotion of the RELIEF Act. By perpetuating that myth you do a disservice to your members and the law. The Lacey Act does not ban any woods, rare or not.”
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