Lawmakers are scrambling to save the summer concert season from federal agents poised to seize the instruments of rock and country stars because the wood used to make them may have been illegally harvested–and without their knowledge.
“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.