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Lacey Act Myths

Much has been said about The Lacey Act since the feds' raid on Gibson last August. Some claim the environmental protection law will land retailers in jail for selling guitars made of pre-2008 harvested wood; that musicians transporting said instruments across state lines will be arrested and hauled off to prison in droves; that retailers will be responsible for documenting the genus and species of wood for every guitar they stock.

Folks, this just ain't gonna happen.

Mary Luehrsen, NAMM's director of public affairs, has been involved in educating the music industry on Lacey Act requirements since the law's amendment in May 2008. As she explained, there are aspects of The Lacey Act that could make these actions "theoretically illegal" but not practically enforceable.

Jim Goldberg, NAMM's legislative advisor and founder of Goldberg & Associates, added, "I don't think, as a practical matter, those holding pre-2008 wood should have major concern because, just as they may not be able to prove legal harvest, the government can't demonstrate illegal harvest."

And what does The Lacey Act mean for your average instrument maker? In short, more paperwork. It's a pain, but it's not the end of manufacturing as we know it. It may be a necessary evil, too. In his blog at the Forest Legality Alliance's website, Taylor Guitars President Bob Taylor discussed his support for the The Lacey Act's general intent, as it aims to curb illegal logging.

"We fill out the paperwork required, and we present our business as an open book," he wrote. "The cost isn't so much for us. It's not an unbearable added burden, and we're happy to do the extra administrative work."

C.F. Martin Chairman and CEO Chris Martin called The Lacey Act "a wonderful thing" in an interview with National Public Radio. "I think illegal logging is appalling." He added that compliance is "tedious, but we're getting through it."

Understand, I'm not saying The Lacey Act is perfect. Since its amendment, it's fraught with a lack of clarity. Luehrsen pointed out that this creates a changing compliance environment that can make abiding by the law tricky.

To fix this, she and other NAMM representatives have been working behind the scenes with regulators and members of Congress. In early November, NAMM and several industry VIPs are also hitting Capitol Hill to advocate for more clarity in the law.

That trip is now closed, but you can still get involved. Join NAMM's Import Export Task Force by e-mailing Attend the group's meeting at the upcoming winter NAMM show. This coalition will give you the right message to deliver at the right time to your congressional representatives. As Luehrsen said, "We will go back to the table again and again or for as long as it takes until we get this right for the music products industry." MI