Guitars vs. Rainforest

Guitar maker, Gibson, has settled a court case brought against them by the federal government that accused Gibson of importing ebony from Madagascar and India along with rosewood, to make their guitars.  Under the Lacey Act, acquiring plant products that are protected in the country of their origin is prohibited.  Both ebony and rosewood are two such protected woods.  Gibson will pay a $300,000 fine which will keep them from any criminal charges in addition to a $50,000 “community service” payment to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation.  Finally, the company will withdraw claims to $419,000 worth of exotic woods seized by the government.

This settlement comes after a raid by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on two of Gibson’s factories last year.  Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz stated that federal agents confiscated nearly $1 million in wood, guitars and electronic data.  Just last month, Juszkiewicz claimed the company had lost $2 million-$3 million in products and productivity due to the raid.  He went on to say that the company complied with all the importation laws of India and called the U.S. government’s actions an ‘overreach’ and a ‘job killer.’

After the raid last year Gibson’s CEO fought tirelessly and remained adamant that the company had no knowledge of anything illegal.  Juszkiewicz  found supporters among tea party members and the state of Tennessee.  But the Justice Department reported Monday that Gibson failed to act on information that the shipments may be illegal.

Certain wood types are preferred in the construction of guitars and other musical instruments.  With innovation and strict company policies and ethics, musical quality does not have to suffer.  Taylor Guitars, a competitor to Gibson, obtains its ebony from their company owned, sustainably managed forest in Cameroon.  In addition, they work with environmental nonprofits to ensure environmentally and socially sustainable forestry practices are adhered to, have developed innovative ways to use less wood, removed VOC’s from their lacquer finishes, and worked to increase recycling while decreasing packaging waste. (

While the guitar industry is only responsible for a small part of rainforest destruction we have to remember what is at stake.   According to Conservation International, about 4/5 of the forests in Madagascar have been lost, making it one of the most threatened ecosystems on earth.  Madagascar’s isolation gives it a high biodiversity with upwards of 150,000 species that are found nowhere else in the world.   Not only is this rainforest important to the 17 million native Malagasy people, but the forest provides health benefits ranging from oxygen to cures for disease for all the people of the world.  Every world company, citizen and government needs to respect our forests for the sake of all.


For more information about Madagascar and other threatened forests please visit Conservation International





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