In one sense, it’s small potatoes. By the numbers alone, the government seizure of a few pallets of exotic hardwood worth only about $100,000 barely merits mention in an era where corporate penalties can top $1 billion. But U.S. v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms is no ordinary enforcement effort, and it may cast a long shadow for years to come.
The case has garnered a lot of mainstream press, largely because the target, Gibson Guitar Corp., is a beloved instrument maker and not the type of company intuitively associated with environmental violations. Music blogs are abuzz with musicians’ fears that—if you follow the enforcement action to the next logical step—they could be in jeopardy of losing their instruments.
The Lacey Act, which prohibits trade in protected plants and animals, dates back to 1900 when poaching was rampant throughout the nation’s newly settled West. In recent decades, the law was primarily used to stem the import of invasive exotic species. Amendments to the law in 2008 expanded plant protections and shifted the enforcement focus to combating illegal logging practices.
Linsin left ECS about four years ago, at a time when the section was extensively debating how to enforce the then-pending Lacey Act amendments.