Federal agents raided Gibson Guitar last week and confiscated what the Fish and Wildlife Service claim may be illegally harvested Madagascar ebony and other woods from protected forests. This follows a 2009 raid resulting in an ongoing court case, "United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms." From the Wall Street Journal:
The question in the first raid seemed to be whether Gibson had been buying illegally harvested hardwoods from protected forests, such as the Madagascar ebony that makes for such lovely fretboards. And if Gibson did knowingly import illegally harvested ebony from Madagascar, that wouldn't be a negligible offense. Peter Lowry, ebony and rosewood expert at the Missouri Botanical Garden, calls the Madagascar wood trade the "equivalent of Africa's blood diamonds." But with the new raid, the government seems to be questioning whether some wood sourced from India met every regulatory jot and tittle.Gibson Guitar Corp CEO Henry Juszkiewicz responded in a public statement issued by the company:
The raids forced Gibson to cease manufacturing operations and send workers home for the day while armed agents executed the search warrants. “Agents seized wood that was Forest Stewardship Council controlled,” Juszkiewicz said. “Gibson has a long history of supporting sustainable and responsible sources of wood and has worked diligently with entities such as the Rainforest Alliance and Greenpeace to secure FSC-certified supplies. The wood seized on August 24 satisfied FSC standards.”"Guitar Frets: Environmental Enforcement Leaves Musicians in Fear" (Thanks, Greg Long!)
Juszkiewicz believes that the Justice Department is bullying Gibson without filing charges.
“The Federal Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. has suggested that the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of U.S. law, but because it is the Justice Department’s interpretation of a law in India. (If the same wood from the same tree was finished by Indian workers, the material would be legal.) This action was taken without the support and consent of the government in India.”
UPDATE: Fretboard Journal's Michael Simmons, points us to "an article we did a while ago about CITES and the Lacey Act, the two laws that triggered the Gibson raid, and it gives some good background on what the issues are." A Guitar Lover’s Guide to the CITES Conservation Treaty