The USDA has decided that shaking down guitarists because their instrument might contain ecologically threatened woods such as Brazilian rosewood doesn’t make a lot of sense.
In a report to Congress of late May 2013, the Department of Agriculture said those traveling with guitars or similar instruments would “not need to submit a Lacey Act declaration for the instrument upon entry into the United States because (animal and plant inspectors are not) requiring the submission of a Lacey Act declaration for such informal entries.”
“That worry has now been put to rest!” wrote Gibson guitars, which famously was raided by the feds in 2009 and 2011 over its use of what appeared to be illegally harvested wood and ebony. Gibson protested but paid at least $350,000 to settle the federal action.
Guitar makers, dealers and collectors have faced a crazy quilt of regulations worldwide regarding endangered woods.
Musicians traveling with guitars faced the unlikely but still possible nightmare of having to document where the wood in their guitars was harvested, with the burden of proof on the traveler.
The fears were especially acute for those with vintage instruments made of traditional but non-sustainable materials — or even for newer instruments made from stockpiles of exotic wood.
“When you have enforcers who really don’t know what they’re looking for, that can cause a lot of problems for everyone, from large guitar companies to musicians who travel internationally with their instruments,” Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars told Guitar Aficionado magazine.
The new Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture) Lacy Act report (PDF) to Congress said:
“If the wood is made into a musical instrument and the owner of the instrument travels internationally and re-enters the country with the instrument as part of his or her personal baggage, that owner would not need to submit a Lacey Act declaration for the instrument.”
The APHIS said “it is also important to note that both (the Department of Justice and the Fish and Wildlife Service) have issued statements that citizens traveling with their musical instruments are not an enforcement priority.”