Instrument Makers Saving Trees

Christian F. Martin IV with his daughter, Claire Frances Martin. Photo by Tim ShafferThe New York Times ran an article yesterday about guitar makers C.F. Martin, Taylor, Fender and Gibson joining forces with environmental activist group Greenpeace in an effort to save tree species vital to their trade.

One wood the article focuses on is Sitka Spruce from Alaska which Greenpeace says could become as rare as Brazilian Rosewood in only six years if current harvesting practices continue. What I found interesting is that the bulk of Sitka Spruce being cut in Alaska is not used for the construction of instruments. This old growth wood is being sent to Japan as framing material for homes. C.F. Martin estimated that a total of three million acoustic and electric guitars are sold in the US each year, but that accounts for less than 20% of the Sitka Spruce that’s cut each year in Alaska.

Martin just last month hosted the C. F. Martin Inaugural Wood Summit ‚Äò07 where wood suppliers from around the world spoke concerning the historical and future availability of their particular species, as well as issues surrounding it’s availability.

What the instrument manufacturers are seeking is not a complete ban on logging, but rather some sort of solution that relies on better forest management. The word that comes to mind is conservation. Let’s hope they are able to make a difference in the larger marketplace and create a situation where our children will be able to buy instruments made from the great woods we love at something less than the cost of a pre-war Martin!