Why I went to Austin to save trees in Alaska

by Rolf Skar

August 2, 2007

The NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) held its summer convention in Austin last week.  Hundreds of companies showcasing everything from clarinets to karaoke machines set up shop in Austin’s cavernous convention center.  In the long rows of exhibitor booths were truckloads of instruments – like pianos and guitars – made from high-quality tone woods.

While most people never think about where the wood for musical instruments comes from, instrument manufacturers certainly do.  Many companies report that music quality wood is becoming tougher to get as forests worldwide are clearcut for toilet paper and two by fours.  This is where the Music Wood campaign comes in.

The Music Wood campaign is as common sense as it is creative.  It brings together musical instrument manufacturers to encourage their suppliers to produce sustainable Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood.  This conserves forests, secures premium prices for timber companies, and guarantees a long-term supply of quality wood.  In short, everyone wins.

FSC wood is music to Rolf's ears in Austin 

Showing true environmental leadership, guitar companies Gibson, Taylor, Martin and Fender are leading the charge.  The fronts of their acoustic guitars, called “soundboards,” are usually made of Sitka spruce – a relatively rare tree that grows in a thin strip of rainforest along the Pacific coast.  Most of the fine-grained, knot-free Sitka spruce wood needed for soundboards was logged long ago.

The lion’s share of remaining music-quality Sitka spruce supply in the US is coming from one company in southeast Alaska.  Rather than liquidating their remaining old-growth forests, Gibson, Martin, Taylor and Fender are giving the company incentives and support to shift to FSC certified operations.

While the Music Wood campaign is still young, it’s attracting a lot of attention.  The buzz and momentum created from our work in Alaska could lead to success with other music wood tree species like rosewood, mahogany and ebony.

Whether you’re a lover of music, forests or both, you should check out the Music Wood website.  Through its interactive features, you can learn more about the woods used in musical instruments, FSC certification and forests across the world: www.musicwood.org

Rolf Skar

By Rolf Skar

Rolf Skar is the Campaigns Director at Greenpeace USA. Since 2007, Rolf has contributed to international Greenpeace campaigns to stop deforestation in the Canadian boreal forest, the Paradise forests of Southeast Asia, and the Brazilian Amazon.

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