US senator Lamar Alexander has called for the Lacey Act to be amended, following rumours that travelling musicians could have their guitars confiscated by federal border agents.
The Nashville politician has told American government officials that the Lacey Act was not intended to seize instruments made of wood harvested before 2008.
Alexander and senator Ron Wyden met with personnel from the music and wood import industries and environmental conservation groups on Thursday May 18th to establish what Alexander describes as “the best ways to make changes to the Lacey Act in order to give companies and individuals more certainty about importing wood and provide clearer protections against the illegal harvest of wood.”
A statement from Alexander read: “Senator Wyden and I are going to write the US Department of Justice and the US 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. 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.
"The Justice Department and Fish and Wildlife have said they have no intention of doing that, but senator 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."
In 2008, Alexander and Wyden were behind an amendment to the 112-year-old Lacey Act that saw exotic woods added to the list of materials protected by the conservation law. It was this amendment that led to the Gibson factory being raided in 2009 and 2011, with high quantities of wood seized.
“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."