NASHVILLE, TN - Gibson Guitars, under investigation by the federal authorities for allegedly importing ebony and rosewood in violation of the 2008 Lacey Act, received a show of support from the Tea Party at a rally held Saturday, Oct. 8 in Nashville, TN. In Madagascar, source of the controversial harvest of ebony, songwriter Razia Said, organized a concert against illegal logging in the country.
Both events reflect the mounting tension over a 2008 amendment of the Lacey Act. It was under the amended law that raids of Gibson by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service took place in 2009 and on Aug. 24 of this year. Gibson is being investigated for allegedly illegally importing ebony from Madagascar and rosewood from India. No criminal charges have been filed.
Hundreds of people attended the Concert Against Illegal Logging held Oct. 3 at Masola National Park in Madagascar. The objective of the concert according to Said was to reach people with music that speaks about the environment and to try to find solutions to protect the rainforests of the small African nation whose natural resources were devastated after a coup. “We want people around the forest to feel proud about it…and to try to keep it alive,” she said.
A world and oceans apart, hundreds of people gathered in Nashville, TN, over the weekend to attend the “We Stand with Gibson” event, which featured Gibson Chairman and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (D-TN) and Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express.
According to the Washington Post, Juszkiewicz told reporters at the rally that he although he supports the intent of the Lacey Act, he questions the provision stating that the use of wood from India not finished by Indian workers is illegal. He called it a “misuse of environmental law. This is not about conservation or illegal logging, to my knowledge,” he told the Post.
Tea Party groups and Republicans like Rep. Blackburn see the Gibson case as an example of regulatory overreach by the Obama administration and want to see the law changed. However, wood industry groups recently voiced their support of the Lacey Act, on a conference call Sept. 20, saying that it has saved American jobs.
“We need the protection of the Lacey Act [to ensure a] fair playing field,” said Mark Barford, executive director of the National Hardwood Lumber Assn., in that call. The Lacey Act enables U.S. manufacturers to compete with artificially low prices of illegal wood. “I don’t see the need for legislative changes.”
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