The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently submitted a report to Congress dealing with provisions of the Lacey Act, which combats trafficking in illegal wood, wildlife, fish and plants.

The 2008 Farm Bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008) amended the Lacey Act by expanding its protection to include illegally harvested logs, but the legislation has also been causing problems for musicians carrying vintage instruments, as well as newer ones, made of materials protected by the act when they enter or re-enter the U.S. with these instruments.

The USDA’s report concerning the carrying out of the amendments addressed the issue and has removed musical instruments from the equation for the most part.

According to the report, many luthiers who manufacture artisan stringed instruments have supplies of tropical hardwoods that were imported into the United States before enactment of the 2008 amendments to the Lacey Act. This brings into question the applicability of the Lacey Act requirements and enforcement provisions to musical instruments made out of such wood.

The report states that owners of this classification of instrument would not need to submit a Lacey Act declaration for the instrument upon entry into the United States if it is part of his or her personal baggage, and that neither the Department of Justice nor the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service see this as an enforcement priority.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) also recently made the decision to create certificates of ownership for affected instruments made prior to when the individual species trade restrictions were put in place.

One of the more recent high-profile cases concerning this part of the Lacey Act involved Gibson Guitar Company. In 2012, in a Criminal Enforcement Agreement with the Department of Justice, Gibson incurred penalties totaling a minimum of $600,000, including the forfeiture of wood taken from the protected forests of Madagascar.  The controversial case brought concern from a significant number of associations, asking for changes and improvements to the 2008 Lacey Act amendment. 

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