“I don’t want the musicians from Nashville who are flying to Canada to perform this summer to worry about the government seizing their guitars,” said Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander.
Alexander, whose state is home to famed Gibson Guitars used by bands and stars like Van Halen, the Allman Brothers, Sheryl Crow, Ted Nugent and Paul McCartney, said Friday that he and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden are working to protect the artists, their instruments and makers and eventually change the law governing illegal wood harvesting.
“Senator Wyden and I are going to write the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a letter in the next couple of weeks and try to make it clear that wood harvested before 2008 to make musical instruments can’t be seized by the federal government,” Alexander said in a statement. “The Justice Department and Fish and Wildlife have said they have no intention of doing that, but Sen. Wyden and I are going to make it absolutely clear. We hope to get a clear ruling within a few weeks, and if we can’t get a clear ruling, we’ll introduce legislation to change the Lacey Act.”
The 112-year-old Lacey Act regulates the trade in bird feathers for hats and was amended in 2008 to cover wood and plants. The goal: make sure the woods used were not exported in violation of another country’s laws.
Their goal is to protect wooden instruments built with materials imported before 2008, when the Act was expanded. “This law was never intended to apply to those instruments,” said Alexander.
They are also working to help companies like Gibson--raided by the Feds recently--figure out what imports are legal.
Wyden and Alexander met with representatives from the music industry, wood import business and environmental and conservation groups Thursday to settle on a solution.
“We held this roundtable because instrument makers like Gibson Guitars in Tennessee are an important part of our music industry, and if the Lacey Act as written is keeping them from being able to get the wood they need to make instruments, we need to make every effort to fix the regulation,” said Alexander.
“The law was intended to prevent illegal logging and protect U.S. job that are threatened by illegal logging, it was never intended to seize instruments or wood products that were obtained prior to the passage of the Lacey Act amendments in May 2008 because they were made from imported wood—and when laws have unintended consequences, Congress has a responsibility to promptly make changes,” he added.