MMR Magazine’s Guest Editorial with Tom Bedell: Musicwood, Part II


America’s largest national forest – the Tongass in southeast Alaska – is the only national forest where commercial clear-cutting continues.

This forest treasure has stood magnificently for thousands and thousands of years. Trees growing as little as six inches a year have fought their way through the dense temperate rainforest for 400 to 600 years and tower as tall as 300 feet. Tight-grained. Straight. Unique strength-to-weight ratio. Incredible music wood.

More significantly, the impact on the unique ecosystem and culture of the dense old growth rainforest; the salmon, sea life, birds, wildlife – the interdependent environment – stand as America’s unique natural resource in a world where tropical forests are threatened throughout the world. We advocate for saving the rainforests of the Amazon Basin, the Mayan Biosphere, the exclusive ecosystem of Madagascar, and the belt of tropical forests across Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Yet, here at home, with our very own treasure, we turn a blind eye, allowing the devastation of forests that have existed for thousands of years. Once clear-cut – they are gone forever.

Alone, the music industry will not stop the plunder. But together, we can stand tall in setting an example of respect in honoring the old-growth Sitka spruce forests of our country. We can all join together in not using ay clear-cut, old growth Sitka spruce in our products!

Over four years ago, Martin Guitars, Taylor Guitars, and Gibson Guitars cooperated in a Musicwood Coalition. They were part of an excellent film, “Musicwood.” They spoke eloquently about the devastation caused by clear-cutting in the Tongass. Yet, sadly, today they continue to build acoustic guitars using clear-cut Sitka.

In the film, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is mentioned as a mitigation solution. Unfortunately, this is not the answer. FSC accommodates clear-cutting where the forests are able to regenerate. But once an old growth Sitka forest is clear-cut, not only is the entire eco-system neighborhood devastated, but also the second growth Sitka trees have no old-growth competition. The rapid growth trees regenerate a different forest.

It is estimated the USA acoustic guitar industry consumes the equivalent of only 200 Sitka trees a year. There are sufficient blow-down, dead, and salvageable trees to meet this supply. Additionally, if individual harvest were necessary, it avoids plundering the entire forest neighborhood.

We have created a website, Please learn how easy it can be for all of us in the music industry to protect our old-growth Sitka forests. If musicians, retailers, and builders would insist that once all current Sitka inventory is consumed, no more clear-cut trees would enter the supply chain, we can stand tall in living our values and setting an example, that hopefully, other industries will follow. Read the story at MMR Online.