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Gibson Guitar to pay $300,000 for violating Lacey Act with illegal timber imports from Madagascar



Recent rosewood and ebony logging has been associated with a rise in commercial bushmeat poaching of threatened lemurs in Madagascar. Gibson Guitars has now admitted to knowingly importing ‘gray-market’ timber from Madagascar, but under a settlement reached with the Department of Justice, the guitar-maker has avoided criminal charges.



Gibson Guitar Company has avoided criminal prosecution under the Lacey Act — a law that aims to curb illegal logging abroad — by settling with the Department of Justice.



Gibson had been charged with importing timber illegally logged from Madagascar’s rainforests in 2008 and 2009. The instrument-maker was also under investigation for sourcing questionable rosewood and ebony products from India.



Under the settlement, Gibson will pay a $300,000 fine for violating the Lacey Act and pay $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to be used to “promote the conservation, identification and propagation of protected tree species used in the musical instrument industry and the forests where those species are found.” Gibson will also forfeit $261,844 worth of Madagascar ebony and implement a compliance program to avoid importing illegally logged timber in the future.




Illegal rosewood logging in Masoala National Park. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

The settlement comes after a long campaign waged by Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz against the seizure and new provisions in the Lacey Act, which have increased regulation of imports of forest products. The campaign was championed by industrial logging interests in Asia and Tea Party advocates in the United States, but turned the instrument-maker into a pariah among environmentalists. The ebony at the center of the Department of Justice complaint was sourced from Madagascar at a time when illegal logging was decimating endangered rainforests in the northeastern part of the country.



The settlement spells out the circumstances around Gibson’s sourcing of the Madagascar ebony:

Under the agreement with the Department of Justice, Gibson “accepts and acknowledges responsibility” for its misconduct. The company will avoid criminal prosecution provided it avoids further violations of the Lacey Act.








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