A 2008 major amendment to the Lacey Act (originally enacted in 1900 and also amended in 1981), which protects endangered plants, animals, and fish, made traveling internationally with a musical instrument a potential nightmare. Under the strict rules of the amended Lacey Act, vintage and new instruments containing materials made from endangered sources, especially certain endangered woods, could lead to the instrument being confiscated and potentially other penalties.
The good news is that U.S. Department of Agriculture has submitted a report to Congress on the issue addressing how musical instruments are treated under the Lacey Act. The L.A. Times quoted from the report in a recent article:
“As an example of this issue, [the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] has heard regularly from luthiers who manufacture artisan stringed instruments.
“Many of them have stores of tropical hardwoods that were imported into the United States before the 2008 amendments to the Lacey Act were enacted and they are concerned about the applicability of the Lacey Act declaration requirements and enforcement provisions to musical instruments made out of such wood.
“If the wood is made into a musical instrument and the owner of the instrument travels internationally and re-enters the country with the instrument as part of his or her personal baggage, that owner would not need to submit a Lacey Act declaration for the instrument upon entry into the United States because APHIS is not requiring the submission of a Lacey Act declaration for such informal entries.”