Friday, November 20, 2009

Lacey Act Illegal Wood Investigations Begin

Jim Gould, President Floor Covering Institute
According to news reports the U.S. government has executed its first warrant and seizure of property for illegally logged wood under the timber provisions of the U.S. Lacey Act Amendments. The story broke with this article, Gibson Guitar plant in Nashville raided by feds.

Federal agents served a subpoena on Gibson Guitars on the 18th and according to subsequent reports, they seized guitars, computers, files and wood. Apparently an investigation into trafficking in illegally harvested rosewood and ebony from Madagascar’s rain forests lead to Gibson who uses the wood to embellish their guitars.

Gibson’s CEO issued a press release saying that the company takes the issue of responsible wood sourcing very seriously and makes every effort to ensure that all of its wood comes from certified sources. He sits on the board of the Rain forest Alliance, an NGO that certifies products for their environmental credentials, but has now stepped down pending conclusion of the investigation.

This is the first such action under the new timber provisions of the Lacey Act that we have heard of and it should be a wake-up call for anyone in the timber products industry who may not take this seriously. Whether the company intentionally did anything wrong remains to be seen. But we can assume that business is has been disrupted and the publicity won't be helpful. Let’s hope that they have fully documented their “standard of due care”and can demonstrate the steps they took to comply with the Lacey Act. They could have unknowingly received illegally harvested wood, even if it was certified. If they are absolved of all wrong doing any illegal wood and products that contain it will still be seized.

This brings new urgency to all users of imported wood products – flooring covering, furniture, and a hundred other industries. It’s important that you make sure your company has procedures in place to avoid this kind of thing, or in the very least, that you can show that you took all reasonable steps one could expect of you to avoid illegal wood.

If you haven’t already done so, please go to our website and download our research article on the Lacey Act, Continuing Wood Trade Under the Lacey Act Amendments. The article was also published at this link by National Floor Trends. Many people in the industry have told us that it is essential reading for anyone in the wood flooring business.

Jim

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