Alexander Working To Prevent Government From Seizing Musical Instruments Made Of Imported Wood

Friday, May 18, 2012

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tn.) announced Friday he is working to make clear that the Lacey Act “was not intended to seize instruments made of wood harvested before 2008.”

“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. 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. 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.

“We are also working to make clear which laws apply and don’t apply to businesses importing and manufacturing with wood, and to remove burdensome regulations on importers and instrument manufacturers.”

In a roundtable discussion Thursday, Senator Alexander and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), with representatives from the music and wood import industries and environmental conservation groups, worked toward establishing what Alexander described as “the best ways to make changes to the Lacey Act in order to give companies and individuals more certainty about importing wood and provide clearer protections against the illegal harvest of wood.”

Senator Alexander added: “We’re committed to creating a safe harbor for instruments made before 2008—this law was never intended to apply to those instruments. We are also working to give companies more certainty about importing wood, by requiring the federal government to inform importers of foreign wood whether the law applies to them or not. We will also work with importers to make it more efficient to comply with the law’s paperwork requirements. We are still working on other aspects of the law, particularly in dealing with penalties on the importation of wood harvested after 2008.

“We held this roundtable because instrument makers like Gibson Guitars in Tennessee are an important part of our music industry, and if the Lacey Act as written is keeping them from being able to get the wood they need to make instruments, we need to make every effort to fix the regulation.

“The law was intended to prevent illegal logging and protect U.S. job that are threatened by illegal logging, it was never intended to seize instruments or wood products that were obtained prior to the passage of the Lacey Act amendments in May 2008 because they were made from imported wood—and when laws have unintended consequences, Congress has a responsibility to promptly make changes.”

The group worked to establish a solution to the four problems it identified with the law:

· the threat to individuals traveling internationally of confiscation of musical instruments made of wood harvested before 2008

· the uncertainty of U.S. interpretation of foreign laws;

· the burdensome and unclear paper work requirements on importers of foreign wood

· the inability of importers to reclaim confiscated wood after the company has been cleared of violating the Lacey Act.

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