We recently reported on the amended Lacey Act’s potential for causing upheaval for U.S. businesses through its expansion to cover all plant products, such as paper and wood. This potential recently became a reality for Gibson Guitars when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service raided a guitar manufacturing plant in Nashville, Tennessee. Reports state that the factory allegedly contained illegal Madagascan rosewood that was imported via wood sources in Germany. To preserve its lemur population that lives in these trees, the Madagascan government has banned the export of all rosewood. Therefore, any Madagascan rosewood logged since the ban would violate the Lacey Act were it to be imported into the United States.
This is first reported major enforcement action of the new provisions of the Lacey Act, and consequently it is being watched with great interest. Circumstances of the raid should raise concerns for U.S. businesses. To exercise the required “due care” standard, many companies have placed faith in the chain-of-custody certification that organizations such as the Rainforest Alliance offer. But only a small percentage of woods and forests are certified, and although some Gibson wood was certified to Rainforest Alliance standards, this wood came from uncertified products. Therefore, although these programs are extremely useful in encouraging responsible logging practices and may constitute “due care,” the Gibson example teaches us that because so much of our wood does not come from certified forests and producers, more needs to be done to ensure the wood and paper products that U.S. companies use is legally obtained.For more information, here is an extended advisory on the amended Lacey Act.