Last week, much of the music world was abuzz about the news that Gibson Guitar’s solid body electric guitar plant, and their corporate headquarters in Nashville, were visited by agents from the US Fish & Wildlife Service last Tuesday (11/17). A search warrant was served and agents spent several hours on site, but would not confirm whether anything had been taken.
It has been widely speculated that the raid was in response to a suspicion that Gibson was using hardwoods in violation of the Lacey Act, which greatly restricts trade in certain wildlife and plants, but the affidavit in question is sealed. This law was originally passed in 1900 and in its most recent revision (The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008), greatly expanded Fish & Wildlife’s purview of logging practices worldwide. Essentially, the Lacey Act as currently amended makes it illegal to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase any plant species or material whose traffic is proscribed by any US, state or foreign law.
Gibson’s official response to the raid seems to verify the speculation.
Gibson Guitar is fully cooperating with agents of the United States Fish & Wildlife Service regarding an issue with wood procurement. Gibson Guitar Chairman and CEO takes the issue of responsible wood sourcing very seriously. Gibson Guitar makes every effort to ensure that all its wood purchases are legal and is also working to increase the amount of wood purchased from certified sources, including FSC-certified wood. The company will continue to cooperate fully and assist our federal government with all inquiries and information.
The Nashville Post is quoting unnamed sources that suggest that the root of the problem involves Madagascan rosewood illegally brought into the US.
“Sources tell NashvillePost.com Gibson was involved in a scheme that shipped the wood from Madagascar to Germany and then to the United States.”
We had held off mentioning this episode, waiting for comment from Gibson’s bluegrass division (Original Acoustic Instruments), which is situated separately from the larger Gibson USA facility targeted in the Fish & Wildlife raid. We just received word from Gibson OAI that they are in the clear.
“As of now, Gibson OAI has not been affected by the recent situation at Gibson USA. From what I know, Gibson goes to great lengths to secure its wood supply from only legal sources.”
The OAI division produces Gibson mandolins, banjos and Dobro guitars at a plant located in the Opry Mills shopping center just by The Grand Ole Opry House.