Regulations Concerning Use of Tropical Woods
Take a walk through any music
store today and the instruments you will see, particularly on high end
guitars, represent a wide range of exotic and valuable woods from the
four corners of the globe: spruce from Alaska, mahogany and rosewood from
South America, ebony from Africa and a host of other lesser known species.
Unfortunately, increasing demand
for exotic woods on global markets has led to the destructive and often
Appendix 1 includes species
threatened with extinction and prohibits commercial trade in these species.
Appendix 2 includes species that although currently not threatened with extinction, may become so without trade restrictions and controls. This classification covers mahogany, particularly from Latin America.
Appendix 3 includes species for
which a country has requested CITES help to ensure effective control of
international trade in that species. This classification covers Spanish cedar
from many Latin American countries, ebony from Madagascar and rosewood from
Madagascar and Honduras.
* List of Restricted and Endangered Wood Species on this page
Additionally, the US has the Lacey Act. This is a conservation law dating from 1900 that was amended in 2008 to expand protection to a broader range of plants and plant products including exotic tone woods. It is now illegal to import, export, buy, sell or otherwise acquire any plant if it is in violation of US or any other international conservation law. The Gibson Guitar Company has recently (August 2012) been fined over $300,000 under the Lacey Act for using ebony from Madagascar and rosewood from India. They have also had their entire stocks of these woods confiscated.
Leonardo Guitar Research Project: Reason for Being
Guitar manufacturers and luthiers unanimously agree on the vital need to protect forest ecosystems, and many initiatives are being worked. However, the environmental focus of guitar manufacturers so far has been on the sustainability and management of forests to ensure a continuing supply of their current tone woods for future generations.
Very little has been done to move away from the exotic woods commonly used today. What has been done on alternative woods has focused on electric guitars (Gibson has a target to reach 80% sustainable woods in their electric guitars by 2012). Exotic tone woods remain the bedrock of high end acoustic guitars. The reason for this is that alternative woods just do not cut it for traditionalists. Tonal quality is inextricably linked in musicians’ heads with old growth exotic wood.
This is where the Leonardo Guitar Research
Project comes in. By demonstrating that everyday common woods can be used to
make high tonal quality and beautiful looking guitars, by having recognized
artists play the instruments, and by sharing the knowledge and innovative
techniques across the international guitar community, we hope to make a
mindset change that will benefit everyone in the long run, providing luthiers
with a broader and more secure supply base of guitar woods, musicians with
highly desirable instruments, and at the same time avoiding loss of valuable
tree species and animal habitats for future generations
How relevant is our project ?
a very small proportion of exotic woods are used for crafting guitars.
The majority is used for furniture (e.g. mahogany, rosewood, maple), paper
production (e.g. spruce) and for building materials (floors, doors,
window frames, terraces etc). However, if high profile guitar makers and
musicians can be convinced, they can have a big impact on the public
and logging companies and in turn influence these people to use and
promote alternative sustainable woods. This can make a difference
to the ecology of our forests...
Are we alone ?
Fortunately there are other people and groups who are concerned about the use of alternatives for tropical timber in instrument making. Here are some links:
CALL: If you have more links or sources about this subject, please let us know> firstname.lastname@example.org
More Background material sources:
·How Green is my Guitar; Lucy Siegle, The Observer, May 3 2009
·Making Guitars with Sustainable Woods; The Houston Chronicle, Jan. 26 2009
·Play Responsibly: Guitar Makers seek Sustainable Sound; Sara J Martinez Nov 29 2011, www.musicwood.org (Greenpeace-initiative)
·Restricted and Endangered Wood Species; Eric Meier, www.wood-database.com
·International trade in Plants and
Wildlife; information for musicians and musical instrument manufacturers:
·Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, www.cites.org
- About deforestation and climate change www.climate-change-guide.com/amazon-rainforest.html
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