Musicians and environmentalists unite in opposition to music industry’s lobbying offensive
ANAHEIM – As tens of thousands of people gather for the opening of the NAMM Show, the National Association of Music Merchants’ biggest annual event, musicians and environmental groups called on the industry to change the tune it’s singing in Washington by ending its support for illegal logging.
Standing outside NAMM’s conference, renowned musicians joined top environmentalists in calling for NAMM to stop lobbying for the so-called “RELIEF” Act (HR 3210). This proposed legislation would gut the Lacey Act, a global conservation success that curbs trade in illegal wildlife and forest products. Today, 20 groups delivered a letter to NAMM leadership calling on the organization to halt their Washington campaign.
“Illegal logging for wood used in guitars and other instruments is helping to eat away at the irreplaceable forests of my country and the communities that depend on them,” said Razia Said, a singer from Madagascar who has recently been touring her native country with other musicians to raise awareness, and who performed at Thursday’s event along with local Los Angeles area musicians. Some 40,000 people worldwide have signed petitions supporting her efforts. “Why would musicians want to weaken laws that ensure the continued supply of our instruments?”
The RELIEF Act would exempt the pulp and paper industry – the vast majority of wood product imports in to the United States – from the Lacey act’s core requirements, reduce fines for “first offenders” to just $250 even for large illegal shipments, and eliminate the ability of federal agents to confiscate wood they know has been logged illegally.
“Rolling back protections against illegal logging is like poaching endangered species,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “As a society, we’ve moved beyond killing elephants for their ivory in order to make piano keys, and we certainly don’t need to decimate the world’s rainforests to decorate guitars. It’s particularly repugnant that this giveaway to illegal loggers is being justified in the name of music.”
One of NAMM’s biggest members, Gibson Guitars, is under investigation for allegedly importing illegal precious woods from Madagascar, and for smuggling wood from India in violation of customs rules. Their media campaign in response to the investigations has created unnecessary fear among musicians about the Lacey Act, even though there have been no enforcement cases targeted at individuals, and federal agencies have stated in writing that they intend to target enforcement against knowing commercial importers and not individual musicians. Meanwhile, NAMM’s campaign is allowing Asian logging companies that have long wanted to weaken or repeal the Lacey Act to hide behind musicians in support of proposed legislation that legal experts and environmentalists say would have devastating impacts for forests and jobs.
“NAMM is spending its time lobbying for bad bills instead of telling its members the truth about the Lacey Act,” said Kate Horner of Friends of the Earth. “The Feds aren’t coming to take your Les Paul. So why is NAMM lobbying against protection of the world’s forests in the name of music?”
In the past, music industry demand and illegal logging have driven popular tonewood species, like Brazilian Rosewood, to the brink of extinction. Today, many others are under threat as well.
“This amendment would weaken one of our most important and effective environmental laws,” said Jessica Lass of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Deforestation and illegal logging is a major contributor to global warming and loss of biodiversity. Efforts to weaken this powerful tool must be rejected.”
“This legislation provides relief to illegal loggers, not musicians,” said Lafcadio Cortesi of Rainforest Action Network. “This bill contains huge loopholes that would benefit pulp and paper companies cutting down Indonesia’s last rainforests, lets criminal offenders off the hook, and adds government bureaucracy at tax-payer expense.”
“NAMM is lobbying Congress and its own membership with outrageously misleading facts,” said Lisa Handy of the Environmental Investigation Agency. “They call their proposal a ‘surgical fix’ but it’s actually a lobotomy that will strip the Lacey Act of the provisions that have made it successful in fighting illegal logging.”
“The Lacey Act has to be kept strong and intact,” said Dr. Douglas Boucher, Director of the Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It provides a win-win situation: first, it helps protect tropical forests; and second, it protects the US wood industry from unfair, illegal imports. Acting legally ought to be the minimum requirement for how American businesses source wood from overseas.”
For more information on Musicians Against Illegal Logging, see www.foe.org/music
For more on the “RELIEF Act”, see: http://www.eia-global.org/News/HR3210_Responses.html
Open letter from 20 environmental organizations available at: www.foe.org/music. Organizations signing on: Center for International Environmental Law, Earth Day Network, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth, Global Witness, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Relief, Saint Louis Zoo, Sierra Club, The Madagascar Fauna Group, Union of Concerned Scientists, United States Green Building Council, Wildlife Conservation Society, and World Wildlife Fund