Gibson Plant Probed

The Gibson Guitar manufacturing plant in Nashville was surprised by a sour note recently when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service served a search warrant to company officials over the alleged use of banned endangered woods.

Federal officials declined to state whether the company was found in possession of banned woods during the search, according to the Tennessean.

“Gibson Guitar makes every effort to ensure that all its wood purchases are legal and is also working to increase the amount of wood purchased from certified sources, including FSC-certified wood,” Gibson said in a statement. “The company will continue to cooperate fully and assist our federal government with all inquiries and information.”

A surprising aspect of the investigation is the fact that Gibson CEO/Chairman Henry Juszkiewicz has served for 15 years on the board of Rainforest Alliance, a group that aims to conserve biodiversity and promote sustainable business practices.

After the search, Juszkiewicz announced he would take a leave of absence from Rainforest Alliance during the investigation, the Tennessean reported.

Under the U.S. Lacey Act, the trading of banned woods is considered a federal offense that can result in civil and criminal penalties and the seizure of property.

Scott Paul, director of Greenpeace’s forest campaign told the paper the news of Gibson’s investigation came as a surprise given the company’s stance on sustainable wood products.

“Today proves that even if you’re very serious about buying only certified, well-managed supplies, it’s still possible to get caught up … in many of these regions where law enforcement is not always great and corruption is not uncommon,” he said. “There are a lot of middle men between the guitar manufacturer and the company that is logging the ground. There a re a lot of people who are not that honest in the timber business worldwide.”