Federal agents raided offices and factories belonging to Gibson Guitar Corporation last week for the second time in two years, seizing documents, computer hard drives, pallets of wood, guitars, and tools. The raid was based on Gibson’s suspected violations of the U.S. Lacey Act, a 111-year-old anti-trafficking statute originally passed to protect wildlife, but more recently expanded to cover wood products with the goal of regulating the importation of endangered plants or animals.
This latest raid on Gibson Guitar Corporation has elicited strong responses in the media, a surprisingly large number of which have nothing to do with guitars, endangered species of wood, or illegal logging.
For example, reactions in the media have ranged from claiming that the raids were made as a spiteful response to donations to specific political parties, while others claim that the raids are a concerted effort of “the Feds” to try and bully small businesses. Whatever political affiliation these reactions are associated with doesn’t matter. What is relevant is that a surprisingly large majority of news stories are missing their chance to report on the real issue—illegal logging and deforestation.
As featured on GreenBlue’s Paper Life Cycle, it is estimated that illegal logging represents 8% to 10% of worldwide wood production. Statistics of illegal logging are difficult to quantify, but some estimates put illegal logging in Indonesia at 90% of all total logging operations, and in the Brazilian Amazon, 60% to 80%.
What is statistically certain, however, is that the United States is the largest consumer of wood products in the world and one of the biggest importers of tropical timber. As illegal logging continues to be an epidemic, solving the problem of illegal logging has much to do with finding solutions here in the U.S.
Illegal logging is cited as one of the primary contributors to deforestation worldwide, causing serious and sometimes irreversible problems such as climate change, biodiversity loss, degradation of soil and water quality, and the lowering of living standards for those who depend on or live in forested regions. To make a huge understatement, there is an enormous amount of work to do to ensure the health and survival of forests and those who depend on them. The Lacey Act is one mechanism in a limited number of tools that we have to enforce anti-trafficking statutes.
For all the discussion about the political aspects of how the Lacey Act may or may not be enforced effectively, it’s important to stay focused on the underlying reasons for banning the import of illegally sourced wood. And furthermore, we need to find solutions on how to address the problem as one of the largest consumers of wood products. Enforcing the Lacey Act fairly is vital to its effectiveness and credibility, but it is unfair and ineffective to bring in unrelated spin to distract from a problem where a lack of attention has already had severe consequences. Ignoring the fight to combat illegal logging and misunderstanding the methods of how we are already doing so will pave a path to, just like the famous Bob Marley song, a Concrete Jungle.