Gibson Guitar May Be First Company Prosecuted for Lacey Act Violations

The Nashville Business Journal has reported that on November 10, 2009, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agents executed a search warrant at the Gibson Guitar Corporation's (Gibson Guitar) Nashville manufacturing plant. The search is said to be part of an investigation into the use of endangered rosewood from Madagascar in violation of the revised Lace Act.

Gibson Guitar, heralded in the past for its pioneering efforts to use sustainable wood products, is the first U.S. company to face prosecution under the revised Lacey Act - a new federal law banning trade in articles made of or containing specifically designated wood. The company issued a statement in which it proclaims full cooperation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service investigation into the wood procurement. 

The Lacey Act was expanded by the 2008 Farm Bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008) to include timber and wood products, making the U.S. the first in the world to regulate trade in plants. Among other things, the Lacey Act requires an import declaration for certain plants and plant products, including the plant's geographical origin and biological genus. 

Penalties for violations of the Lacey Act range from a forfeiture of goods to fines up to $500,000 and even imprisonment if the company is found to have knowingly engaged in trade of illegally sourced wood.