Protect the Lacey Act

Musicians Against Illegal Logging: Protect forests and the future of musical instruments

The National Association of Music Merchants is working to gut the Lacey Act, a highly successful conservation law that bans the import of illegally logged wood, paper, and other forest products into the United States. We’re appealing to our fellow musicians and NAMM members to urge the organization to suspend its attempts to weaken the Lacey Act and instead join efforts to protect the world’s forests and ensure a sustainable supply of tone woods for future generations.

“I grew up in the forests of Madagascar and now they’re under threat from illegal logging. I call on my fellow musicians to stand up for our forests and the future of music by joining Musicians Against Illegal Logging.”
Malagasy musician Razia Said

Sign our petition.

Read our letter to NAMM's President and CEO Joe Lamond and Chairman Kevin Cranley.

What’s at stake

Forests around the world are under serious threat. Historically, music industry demand for tonewoods pushed many rare species like Brazilian rosewood to the brink of extinction – damaging forests and their wildlife and threatening a sustainable supply of the raw materials needed to make great sound.

More recently, in response to demand from musicians, many major instrument manufacturers have worked to ensure that the wood they use is legal and sustainable -- and have joined efforts to implement the 2008 Lacey Act amendments, a critical tool that ensures wood and paper will only be imported from legal sources. According to Chatham House, a prominent British think tank, the Lacey Act has already helped reduce illegal logging globally by 22 percent. The World Future Policy Council and the United Nations recently recognized it as one of the world’s three most effective forest conservation policies. 

Oddly enough, this ongoing progress is under threat from NAMM. Instead of focusing its efforts to ensure that its members understand the facts and can comply with the law, supporting the music instrument industry’s professed commitment to sustainability, NAMM instead has thrown its money and resources into lobbying for the so-called “RELIEF Act,” sweeping legislation which would gut the Lacey Act.

What’s wrong with the RELIEF Act?

  • Bad for forests: The “RELIEF Act” (HR 3210) would gut the Lacey Act’s protections against import of illegally logged forest products.
  • Huge enforcement loopholes: The “RELIEF Act” exempts all “non-solid” wood products like pulp, paper and composites from the core declaration requirement of Lacey, representing more than 50 percent of forest product imports.  It would take us back to the “bad old days” when unscrupulous foreign operations could dump illegally logged forest products on the giant U.S. market.
  • Impunity for criminals: Illegally logged forest products are stolen from national parks, public land, and private property owners. Despite this, the “RELIEF Act” cuts fines for “first offenders” to just $250 -- no more than a speeding ticket, putting law-abiding American companies at a major competitive disadvantage. It also allows people to keep timber that has been proven to be stolen.
“This is what Lacey is trying to stop: the cutting of trees from other people’s front yards, parks, or fishing spots or country’s forests. If trees are cut and taken, they need to be legally taken, with full agreement and recompense to the owners. We would want the same thing for ourselves."
Bob Taylor, Founder and Owner of Taylor Guitars

Why is NAMM lobbying against protection of the world’s forests in the name of music?

NAMM asserts that the Lacey Act, one of the United States’ most important environmental laws, is threatening the music industry and needs to be “fixed.” But don’t be fooled: NAMM is NOT working to “fix” this law. Instead, NAMM is aggressively trying to gut the Lacey Act’s effectiveness in fighting criminal illegal logging and trade, one of the most serious threats to the world’s forests today.

Since Gibson Guitars was raided in August 2011, a lot of misinformation and fear-mongering has appeared in the press, painting the Lacey Act as a serious threat to musicians. This is simply not the truth. The Fish and Wildlife Service, which conducted the raid against Gibson, has made it clear that it is not coming after your guitar: "Individual consumers and musicians are not the focus of any U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement investigations pertaining to the Lacey Act, and have no need for concern about confiscation of their instruments by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service." Responsible musical instrument manufacturers like Taylor Guitars, Martin Guitars, and many others strongly support the Lacey Act.

Learn the full story about NAMM.

Allies in opposition

Industry Opposition: The “RELIEF Act” is opposed by the American Forest and Paper Association, American Hardwood Export Council, Hardwood Federation, Indiana Hardwood Lumber Association, Kentucky Forest Industry Association, Lake States Lumber Association, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Hardwood Lumber Association, American Forest Foundation, National Wood Flooring Association, and Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers, and the United Steelworkers.

Environmental Opposition:  Blue Green Alliance, Center for International Environmental Law, Clean Air Task Force, Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth, Global Witness, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Alliance, Rainforest Relief, Saint Louis Zoo, Sierra Club, Sound & Fair, The Field Museum, The Madagascar Fauna Group, The Nature Conservancy, Union of Concerned Scientists, United States Green Building Council, United Steelworkers, Wildlife Conservation Society, and World Wildlife Fund all oppose the “RELIEF Act.”

The Gibson Case

On August 24, 2011, agents of the Fish & Wildlife Service raided the Gibson Guitar facilities in Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee, seizing ebony and rosewood material, guitars and guitar parts as evidence of suspected violation(s) of the U.S. Lacey Act (Gibson had previously been raided in 2009 in connection with its import of ebony from Madagascar, in violation of bans on this species’ export).  Gibson is one of NAMM’s most powerful members. The government alleges that Gibson knowingly exported illegal ebony from Madagascar in violation of the Lacey Act and smuggled wood out of India to evade Lacey Act requirements. The government has not yet released a statement to the public on the case, but the affidavit filed to obtain the search warrants has been unsealed and is publicly available. Learn more.


Responding to the urgent problem of illegal logging in her home country, singer songwriter Razia Said assembled a cast of thousands to organize a powerful event inside the Masoala National Park. Watch the video to learn more.

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