August 28, 2019
Following three years of consensus-building among music stakeholders, governmental authorities, and conservation experts, policy requests put forward by the League of American Orchestras (the League) and partners in the international music community gained approval today at the gathering of 183 parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), where musical instruments in use by musicians across the globe were on the agenda August 17 through 29, alongside urgent new policies shaped to address threats to plant and animal species worldwide. Actions were approved that will improve the mobility of performing artists, redirect enforcement resources to better support conservation, and advance critical conservation efforts while also supporting ongoing international cultural activity.
For orchestras and individual musicians seeking to buy and sell instruments across borders, or to simply travel internationally for performances, CITES sets limitations on this activity and requires permits for instruments that have historically been made with small amounts of material from species that have now come under protected status, such as rosewood, lizards, sea turtles, and elephants. The League participated in the deliberations at the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18), as treaty negotiators considered new rules related to items containing rosewood, cedrela, and mammoth ivory, and considered improvements to the Musical Instrument Certificate in use by touring orchestras.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was a leading supporter of these policy improvements, and the U.S. head of delegation, Assistant Interior Secretary Rob Wallace, delivered remarks in support of musical instruments at a special event in Geneva held on the first day of the deliberations, co-hosted by the League and sponsored by NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants. Remarks were also given by delegates from the European Union, Canada, the CITES Secretariat, World Resources Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund International, all in support of policy changes that advance both conservation needs and cultural activity.
The following improvements were adopted at CoP18:
Rosewood: A proposal by Canada and the European Union was adopted to allow all commercial and non-commercial movement of finished musical instruments, parts, and accessories that contain rosewood (the dalbergia genus) to be exempt from CITES permit requirements, aside from Brazilian rosewood (dalbergia nigra), which has been under tighter restrictions since 1992, and will remain subject to permit requirements. The exemption will be available starting in late-November, 90 days after adoption. This represents a significant form of relief for musicians that internationally buy and sell the many woodwind, string, and percussion instruments that contain rosewood and change ownership many times during the long life of the instrument. This also adds certainty for musicians and orchestras traveling with musical instruments that contain rosewood, as these instruments will be fully exempt from permit requirements. These exemptions will also provide relief to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and CITES management authorities globally that have been overwhelmed by a large volume of permit requests for finished musical instruments, parts, and accessories since new permit requirements went into effect on January 2, 2017. In the course of discussions among musical instrument stakeholders, Parties to CITES, and conservation organizations, a consensus view emerged confirming that there is not a corresponding conservation value to requiring that finished musical instruments, parts, and accessories repeatedly undergo the permit process. The rosewood material used in making musical instruments will remain subject to permit requirements, which is an important conservation effort supported by musical instrument stakeholders at CoP18.
Cedrela: A proposal related to newly listing in CITES Appendix II Cedrela, a tree species that is used in making some classical guitars, was amended to address only logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets, and plywood from species grown in neotropical regions, which will exempt finished musical instruments containing Cedrela from new CITES permit requirements.
Mammoth: A proposal to include the woolly mammoth as a species subject to CITES controls was rejected, as newly regulating an extinct species is beyond the scope of CITES and as many Parties stated that mammoth ivory can be identified as differentiated from elephant ivory in trade. Mammoth ivory has been used in small quantities as a replacement for elephant ivory in musical instruments for several decades. CITES parties agreed to consider studying how the trade in mammoth ivory impacts elephant conservation.
Musical Instrument Certificate: A decision was approved, with leadership by the U.S. and E.U., to initiate a critical CITES effort to streamline and simplify permit requirements for "the international movement of CITES specimens where the trade will have a negligible impact on the conservation of the species concerned," which can include the non-commercial cross-border movement of musical instruments. The CITES Musical Instrument Certificate is used by individual musicians and ensembles when performing internationally with older instruments containing protected species material that still require CITES permits, such as elephant ivory tips on bows, tortoiseshell embellishments, and lizard skin bow grips. This means that substantial resources must be invested by both musicians and enforcement authorities, simply to allow musicians to perform internationally with their instruments and bring them back home, still firmly in their possession. Next steps in response to calls to ease the permit burden will take place in CITES meetings beginning in 2020. Resolutions were also approved to harmonize the codes used on the Musical Instrument Certificate and clarify the requirements for determining that items qualify for CITES permits.
Musical instrument stakeholders have a lasting commitment to the goals of CITES and will remain at the table for ongoing formulation of policies that support the sustainability of endangered global species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will soon partner with the League to produce a webinar detailing the new rules for musical instruments. In the meantime, detailed information about changes to the current rules for traveling with musical instruments containing endangered species material are available on the League of American Orchestras website.
In Geneva and over the course of the three-year negotiations, the League has been represented by Heather Noonan, Vice President for Advocacy. The League thanks the many global partners that collaborated to advance these policy requests, including: American Federation of Musicians, Argentinian Association of Musical Instruments Manufacturers, Association of British Orchestras, Australian Music Association, Brazilian Music Industry Association (ANAFIMA), The National Association of German Musical Instruments Manufacturers, C.F. Martin & Co., Confederation of European Music Industries (CAFIM), Dismamusica, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, ForestBased Solutions, LLC, French Musical Instrument Organization (CSFI), International Alliance of Instrument and Bow Makers for Endangered Species, International Association of Violin and Bow Makers (EILA), International Federation of Musicians (FIM), International Wood Products Association, Japan Musical Instruments Association, Madinter, Music Industries Association, National Association of Music Merchants, Orchestras Canada, Paul Reed Smith, PEARLE*, The Recording Academy, The SOMM - Society of Music Merchants e. V., and Taylor Guitars.
June 21, 2019
Treaty Negotiations Set for August Include Musical Instrument Policies
New dates have been set for the gathering of 182 parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), where musical instruments in use by orchestras and musicians across the globe will be on the agenda August 17 through 29. For orchestras and individual musicians seeking to buy and sell instruments across borders, or to simply travel internationally for performances, CITES sets limitations on this activity and requires permits for instruments that have historically been made with small bits of material from species that have now come under protected status, such as monitor lizards, sea turtles, and elephants. The League will participate in the deliberations, as treaty negotiators consider new rules related to items containing rosewood, cedrela, and mammoth ivory, and consider improvements to the Musical Instrument Certificate in use by touring orchestras. Together with its partners in the broader music sector, the League has spelled out policy positions that will support conservation efforts while preserving international cultural activity.
May 10, 2019
Musical instruments on the agenda for treaty negotiations
Musical instruments in use by orchestras and musicians across the globe will be on the agenda for discussion when 182 countries gather to renegotiate the implementation of the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Whether musicians are seeking to buy and sell instruments across borders, or to simply travel internationally for performances,CITES sets limitations on this activity and requires permits for instruments that have historically been made with small bits of material from natural resources that have now come under protected status, such as monitor lizards, sea turtles, and elephant ivory. The League will be participating in the negotiations, which were originally scheduled to take place in Sri Lanka this month but are currently postponed. In the meantime, the League's April 12 comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service outline policy actions that can support conservation efforts while also preserving international cultural activity.
November 14, 2018
Progress in improved policies for musical instruments
At a meeting in Sochi, Russia in early October, significant progress was made towards improving policies that regulate travel and sales of musical instruments under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The League's Heather Noonan, VP for advocacy, delivered remarks on behalf of musical instruments group worldwide. During consideration of policies regarding the rosewood found in many string, percussion, and woodwind instruments, she called on decision makers to take swift steps towards a solution that can be adopted at the Conference of the Parties in May 2019. Delegates attending the meeting of the Standing Committee of CITES responsible for policy development unanimously agreed that trade in musical instruments is not detrimental to the threatened species under consideration, and advanced a recommendation to exempt both commercial and noncommercial trade in finished musical instruments, parts, and accessories from the new rosewood permit requirements that were put into place in January 2017.
The League will be engaged in the next steps required for this recommendation to be fully adopted and implemented by all 183 parties to the treaty when negotiations take place in May in Sri Lanka, and continues to partner with the National Association of Music Merchants and music stakeholders worldwide. To learn more about how protected species policies affect musical instruments, visit the League's resource page.
July 26, 2018
League speaks up in global protected species discussions
This week, delegates from across the globe are gathered in Geneva, Switzerland to consider a broad agenda that includes policies controlling how musical instruments may cross international borders under the terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The League is an official participant in the negotiations, working in partnership with global music organizations and conservation leaders to ensure that rules related to rosewood, ivory and other materials found in orchestral instruments address urgent conservation concerns while also supporting ongoing international cultural activity. The League provides essential assistance to orchestras as they navigate the permit requirements for international tours, and is also deeply engaged in efforts to improve the policies. Further policy improvements will be sought as the terms of the treaty are negotiated in May of 2019.
Read more about how the League is working in partnership with NAMM, WWF, and dozens other stakeholders in the current issue of Symphony magazine, "Conserving Endangered Woods: Advocating for Orchestras and Musicians."
(Pictured above: League VP for Advocacy, Heather Noonan, speaks up on musical instruments rules at CITES)
May 3, 2018
Treaty negotiations ahead for musical instruments and protected species
The League assists orchestras as they navigate the permit requirements for international tours, and is also deeply engaged in efforts to improve the policies that restrict musicians from using their instruments across the globe. Recent rules adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and policymakers in other countries have now exempted most musical instruments from permit requirements for travel if they contain non-Brazilian rosewood. Further policy improvements will be sought as the terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) are negotiated in May of 2019. Read more about how the League is working in partnership with global music organizations and conservation leaders in the current issue ofSymphony magazine, "Conserving Endangered Woods: Advocating for Orchestras and Musicians."
March 23, 2018
Help for Protected Species Permit Rules
Language accompanying the bipartisan FY18 spending bill encourages the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue to work with stakeholders "to address their concerns related to international trade in wood and wood products" with a reference to recent new rosewood rules under the Convention on International Trade in Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). The report also encourages the agency to develop a domestic electronic permitting system to expedite processing of legal imports and exports. These policy changes could help ease difficulties musicians encounter when traveling with musical instruments.
November 29, 2017
August 29, 2017
The League represents orchestras on rosewood concerns
The League continues to speak up for orchestras and musicians at international policy discussions on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). League VP for Advocacy Heather Noonan (pictured, right) recently returned from Geneva, where she joined the CITES Plants Committee’s discussion of next steps on rules for commerce and travel with instruments that contain various species of rosewood. The League was there to make sure musicians' needs are heard and addressed when it comes to crossing borders with instruments that contain protected species material, such as rosewood, and continues to partner with conservation organizations and international music stakeholders toward solutions that advance conservation efforts, while also supporting musicmaking across borders.
July 13, 2017
Instruments, rosewood, and protected species policy
Orchestra musicians often perform with instruments that contain small amounts of ivory, tortoise shell, rosewood, and other species that are protected by domestic and international import/export restrictions and are subject to very specific documentation requirements when they are carried across international borders. As part of our continuing efforts to help musicians navigate the rules and improve the policies, the League is partnering with U.S. and international music and conservation organizations to bring forward solutions that can support both conservation and international cultural exchange at a meeting on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Geneva beginning July 22. New rules for all instruments containing rosewood will be central to the conversation. The League also weighed in with the new Administration to recommend steps the U.S. government can take to improve policies for musical instruments, while supporting urgent conservation concerns.
May 5, 2017
Next steps for violins, woodwinds, and protected species
The League continues to lead efforts to ensure that musicians can travel with the full array of instruments that contain materials subject to U.S. and international rules for protected species, as many musicians travel for the first time under new rules for rosewood implemented on January 2, 2017. Our productive partnerships with conservation organizations, international music stakeholders, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are yielding improvements for traveling musicians and touring orchestras. In our first set of comments filed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the new Administration, the League recommends next steps to take in domestic rulemaking and in upcoming international treaty negotiations. These negotiations would further streamline the permit process and ensure that international cultural activity is supported as conservation goals are also met.
December 16, 2016
Traveling? New protected species rules for instruments
Instruments that contain ivory, rosewood, and other protected materials are subject to new rules when carried across international borders. The League has worked to improve the process for musicians and produced a webinar detailing the latest requirements in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. View the webinar here or read our comprehensive tips to access additional essential guidance.
October 24, 2016
CITES treaty negotiations include musical instrument policies
The League of American Orchestras was a voice for the music community in what is being called "game changing" treaty negotiations over international protected species rules. The 17th conference of the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was the largest event in the treaty's more than 40-year history, and the array of issues under consideration included two key areas that will impact the rules for musical instruments that cross borders among the 183 party countries. The League's Vice President for Advocacy Heather Noonan was credentialed by the U.S. government and participated September 24 through October 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The League spoke on the floor of the negotiations, hosted a special event open to all delegates featuring musicians from the Music Enlightenment Project, and partnered with other national and international music organizations and conservation leaders to find solutions for musicians that use their instruments internationally. Learn more about the outcomes and critical next steps for travel and trade with musical instruments in our special report.
September 21, 2016
League joins international treaty negotiations
Following the successful policy solutions achieved this summer on domestic rules for musical instruments that contain small quantities of African elephant ivory, League VP for Advocacy Heather Noonan departs for Johannesburg, South Africa this week to represent orchestras in treaty negotiations on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The League was credentialed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to participate in the full 12 days of deliberations. Delegates from more than 180 countries will consider a proposal to streamline current requirements for travelling internationally with musical instruments that contain protected species materials, and other policies that impact musicians whose instruments contain rosewood, ivory, and other material that is subject to the terms of the treaty. The League partners with the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), the American Federation of Musicians, the American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers, and other national and international music organizations on these issues, and with support from NAMM will host an event open to all CITES delegates to discuss CITES policy solutions that balance urgent conservation needs with ongoing international cultural activity.
July 8, 2016
Ivory rules take effect
Fresh guidance is now available about the impact of ivory rules for musicians. On July 6, new policies officially took effect for international travel and domestic commerce with musical instruments that contain small quantities of African elephant ivory. The League played a key leadership role in national conversations with White House officials, top leadership at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Congress, and conservation organizations to successfully seek solutions that would address urgent conservation concerns while also protecting international cultural activity. Visit our dedicated resource center for detailed information about new USFWS guidance that spells out how to access exemptions for musical instruments.
June 2, 2016
New Ivory Rules Support Musical Instruments
On July 6, 2016, new rules will take effect for both international travel and domestic commerce with musical instruments that contain small quantities of African elephant ivory. Finalizing new rules under the Endangered Species Act to institute a near-total ban on the domestic commercial trade of African elephant ivory has been a top priority of the Obama Administration. Since the plan to issue new rules was announced in February 2014, the League and its member orchestras have played a key leadership role in national conversations with White House officials, top leadership at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Congress, and conservation organizations to successfully seek solutions that would address the ongoing use of legally crafted musical instruments.
The final rules broaden access to travel permits, allow for domestic interstate commerce in existing musical instruments containing "de minimis" quantities of ivory weighing less than 200 grams, and very helpfully clarify that legally-crafted musical instruments are not contributing to the poaching and trafficking crisis.
In announcing the rules to reverse a current travel restriction and provide opportunities for ongoing domestic interstate commerce in musical instruments, USFWS Director Dan Ashe said, "We listened carefully to the legitimate concerns raised by various stakeholder groups and, as a result, are allowing commonsense, narrow exceptions for musicians, musical instrument makers and dealers...to trade items that have minimal amounts of ivory and satisfy other conditions. These items are not drivers of elephant poaching and do not provide cover for traffickers."
League President and CEO Jesse Rosen said, "We look forward to ongoing engagement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as further guidance is crafted to inform orchestra musicians about the de minimis sales exemption and expanded travel permit eligibility. The Administration's ultimate approach to the African elephant ivory rule demonstrates that it is possible to address urgent conservation needs while also supporting global cultural activity."
Between now and July 6, USFWS will be working on creating new resources to guide compliance with the new requirements. In the meantime, the League has analyzed the 114-page rule and new USFWS Q & A to provide a summary of the top items that relate to musical instruments.
See the League's Overview on the Ivory Ban and Musical Instruments
The League is grateful to our partners at Chamber Music America, The Recording Academy, the American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers, NAMM, the American Federation of Musicians, Carnegie Hall, and our other national collaborators in ongoing efforts to make progress on this complex policy issue.
Further action is still to come on a broader array issues related to international travel with protected species material, particularly as the U.S. prepares to enter into international negotiations on this topic at this September's Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
May 6, 2016
Ports for traveling with CITES permits double!
In response to requests from the League and our partners in the national music community, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) adopted on May 2 a new policy that officially doubles the number of port locations that musicians can use when traveling internationally with instruments that contain Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) plant and animal material, or that contain CITES plant material and any (CITES or non-CITES) wildlife material. Previously, CITES musical instrument passports that included, for instance, instruments with both ivory and Brazilian rosewood could only pass through the nine port locations where both USFWS and U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors are present. Under the new policy, if a musical instrument permit contains both plant and animal material, or if the instrument contains CITES plant material and any (CITES or non-CITES) wildlife material, musicians may use any of the 18 ports in which USFWS officials are available to conduct inspections and credential documents. Consult the League's tips for navigating the permit process and our list of designated ports for further details.
New U.S. rules expected for global travel and domestic trade in ivory
The League remains directly engaged with the White House, conservation groups, and top leaders at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the Obama Administration finalizes new rules that will impact international travel and domestic commerce with musical instruments crafted decades ago that contain small quantities of African elephant ivory. At a recent public stakeholder meeting, USFWS Director Dan Ashe said that the music community has been "helpful and supportive" in seeking policy solutions that will allow for continued use of musical instruments while meeting urgent conservation needs. The new rules are expected to be published in June.
Musical instrument passport on EU and US CITES agenda
This September, the U.S. will be one of 182 national delegations convening in South Africa to discuss and modify the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17). At each step of the process leading up to this event, the League has weighed in to request agreements to streamline and improve the CITES musical instrument passport process. A USFWS announcement on April 28 confirmed that the U.S. "will work with countries at CoP17 to ensure that permitting for musical instruments is streamlined" and that conversations will be supported by a proposal put forward by delegates from the European Union. The League will remain fully engaged in this process as it moves forward.
January 15, 2016
New tips for flying with instruments
Check out the newest guidance available to help musicians travel with their instruments by air! The League worked in collaboration with the American Federation of Musicians, The Recording Academy, Chamber Music America, and a broad array of other national music organizations to produce a comprehensive handbook that describes how to prepare for travel and navigate airline policies under the new law that requires airlines to accommodate travel with musical instruments. The handbook reflects key insights gathered from our conversations with the airline industry and the U.S. Department of Transportation. In addition to downloading this resource, keep checking the League's online tips for traveling trouble-free for ongoing updates and links to portals for filing complaints if musicians encounter difficulties while flying.
October 8, 2015
League Calls for Progress and Clarity in New Ivory Rules
On behalf of member orchestras nationwide, the League filed comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on September 28, supporting proposed exemptions for musical instruments from new rules restricting commerce and international travel with items containing elephant ivory, and calling for further improvements and clarifications to proposed policies that will impact the future use of violins, bows, bassoons, and other musical instruments legally made with small quantities of ivory. The proposed rules deal primarily with future sales of ivory-containing items, but also provide one form of relief related to travel that was requested by the League and its partners in national music organizations. The League website provides an overview of this complicated topic that includes a summary of our comments, and also provides updated guidance for musicians preparing for international travel as rules continue to change. The timeline for finalizing the draft rules is uncertain, as USFWS must now take into account the many thousands of public comments prompted by the proposed new policies. The League comments also urge USFWS to adopt immediate policy improvements to the rules for international travel, which are expected to be taken up in a separate rule-making process later this year. We remain in close dialogue with USFWS, music industry stakeholders, and conservation interests as orchestras pursue policy solutions that will both protect endangered species and support international cultural activity.
September 21, 2015
League to Comment on Proposed Ivory Rules
As the League reported earlier this summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced new draft rules related to African elephant ivory. The proposed new policies - which would impact commerce and travel for musical instruments that contain ivory, such as bows, stringed instruments, and bassoons - are open for public comment through Monday, September 28.
Aside from one clear improvement that would broaden the array of instruments eligible for travel permits, the proposed new rules are intended to deal primarily with future domestic interstate sale of items that contain African elephant ivory.
The League will file comments on behalf of its member orchestras in response to the proposed ivory rules and is coordinating with colleagues in other national music organizations to reinforce the following key points:
- The music community is fully committed to the goals of wildlife conservation and combating illegal trade in ivory and other protected species. We seek reasonable solutions that protect the domestic and international use of musicians' tools of their trade and preserve the use of historically and legally made instruments now and for future generations to come.
- We support the proposal to allow the future domestic interstate sale of musical instruments that contain "de minimis" amounts of ivory.
- We applaud USFWS for acknowledging multiple times in the draft regulations that "trade in the types of manufactured items that would qualify for this proposed de minimis exception is not contributing to or driving the illegal ivory trade."
- The proposed threshold for qualifying for the "de minimis" standard for domestic interstate commerce is 200 grams. While this amount covers a wide array of musical instruments that contain ivory, it may not cover instruments with multiple keyboards, such as organs, and some bagpipes. We also prefer a measurement by volume, as it may be difficult to assess the weight of ivory parts without dismantling fragile instruments.
- The proposed rules include exemptions for exhibitions by "museums or similar cultural or historical organizations." We request that orchestras and other 501(c)(3) cultural organizations be considered eligible for exemptions under this, or a separate future rulemaking process.
- The proposed rules would remove the current restriction on non-commercial travel into the U.S. with instruments that were purchased after February 25, 2014 that contain African elephant ivory. We strongly support this substantial policy improvement.
- Further improvements are urgently needed for international travel with musical instruments that contain protected species material. We look forward to the opportunity for continued communication with USFWS as new travel-related policies are crafted.
Ongoing concerns related to international travel by orchestras and other musicians that cross borders to perform with the tools of their trade could be taken up in a separate rulemaking procedure. The opportunity to comment on travel-related concerns in more detail may begin later this year, when USFWS is expected to issue draft rules to formally implement the newly-crafted musical instrument certificate, and this issue may be taken up during the next negotiations on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The League will keep orchestras informed as that process moves forward, so that touring orchestras, guest musicians, and music ensembles can take full advantage of the opportunity to weigh in on potential policy changes.
If your orchestra - or individuals associated with the orchestra - would like to comment on the proposed rules, please keep in mind that all comments submitted to the Federal Register can be viewed by the general public. Also, responses on proposed regulations are most effective if they are customized to bring personal experience, statistical data, or a unique perspective to the issue. Multiple copies of "cookie cutter" messages do not have as much impact in this regulatory setting. Comments may be submitted using this portal in the Federal Register by September 28. If you do submit comments, please send a copy to the League's Washington, D.C. office so that we can reinforce your message in our ongoing communications with federal policy makers.
July 27, 2015
New Draft Ivory Rules Address Musical Instruments
President Obama has announced a new round of draft rules to implement a near-total ivory sales ban in response to the global poaching and trafficking threat to African elephants. In February of 2014, the Administration had announced that new rules limiting domestic sales were on the way, and also immediately implemented new restrictions related to international travel. The proposed rules that have just been released for public review and comment primarily address domestic commerce, would make some new changes for travel, and include some important accommodations that have been requested by the League and our partners in the broader music community since plans for the ban were first announced last year.
The League has been actively weighing in with policy leaders and stakeholders as proposals take shape, and informing orchestras of the immediate impact of policy changes. In announcing the proposed rules, which would reverse a current travel restriction and provide certain opportunities for ongoing domestic commerce in musical instruments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) stated that it, "consulted extensively with groups that may be impacted by new trade controls for ivory, including professional musicians" and said that the proposal "recognizes that legal trade in these items does not contribute to the current poaching crisis."
July 10, 2015
League Calls for Treaty Improvements for Musical Instruments
As more than 180 countries prepare to re-negotiate the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in the fall of 2016, the League is asking U.S. representatives to pursue improvements to policies for travel with musical instruments. In comments on behalf of orchestras filed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on July 10, the League asked the U.S. negotiators to pursue exemptions, harmonize international policies, and improve guidance as musicians struggle to comply with newly-enforced permit requirements for international travel with musical instruments that contain protected species material like ivory, rosewood, sea turtle and lizard. Just this month, Switzerland announced an exemption from the CITES permit process for musical instruments that are hand-carried -- a policy that could be adopted by the U.S. and other CITES countries. As the U.S. also continues to consider potential new domestic restrictions on commerce and international travel with items containing African elephant ivory, the League is in ongoing dialogue with other national music organizations, conservation groups, and federal officials, in pursuit of policy solutions that meet urgent conservation needs while also protecting international cultural exchange.
March 18, 2015
Friendlier Skies for Musicians
New rules requiring airlines to accept musical instruments on flights are now officially in effect! As of March 6, airlines are required to comply with musical instrument rules enforced by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Details on how these policy improvements came about and what they mean for traveling musicians are in "Friendlier Skies for Musicians," an article appearing in the spring issue of the League's SYMPHONY magazine. Major airlines continue to consider how to implement the new rules and are just beginning to train front-line flight crews and agents. See our up-to-date tips for how to navigate the new environment for air travel, and stay tuned! The League is working in partnership with the American Federation of Musicians and other national music organizations to craft ongoing guidance for traveling musicians.
Visit the League's Aviation Information Center
December 31, 2014
Final Rules for Musical Instrument Air Travel Released by USDOT
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced final regulations to improve travel by air with musical instruments. The rules become effective within 60 days of being published and require major airlines to update their policies and practices. This action comes nearly three years after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act was signed into law, including a section mandating improved airline policies for musicians traveling with their instruments.
This major policy development is the result of intense and prolonged advocacy efforts by the music community, reinforced by dozens of Congressional leaders, including Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI).
The new rules require airlines to adequately accommodate musical instruments in their formal policies for checked and carry-on baggage, and to ensure that front-line airline personnel consistently apply the policies. The next crucial step will be for the airlines to adopt new policies, make them publicly accessible, and thoroughly train airline personnel. The League continues to partner closely with the American Federation of Musicians, Chamber Music America, the Recording Academy, the Performing Arts Alliance, and other national music organizations in conversation with senior USDOT and aviation industry officials, advocating for swift implementation, and immediate relief for traveling musicians.
As the airlines take action to implement the new rules, the League will update our online hub of resources to explain the impact on travel with musical instruments.
December 2, 2014
Ivory Action Expected
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) intends to release new draft rules by the end of this year or in early 2015 to implement the ban on African elephant ivory announced in February. The rules are likely to focus on domestic commerce in items that contain African elephant ivory, including musical instruments, and will be open for public comment before being finalized. The League provides detailed tips for navigating the ban's impact on international travel, and continues to advocate for policy improvements to address the unintended consequences for musical instruments. A recent Symphony article, "Saving Elephants – And Instruments," explores opportunities to meet conservation goals while protecting international cultural activity.
Progress on Airline Regulations
After a nearly three-year delay, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to issue final regulations on airline rules for travel with musical instruments by the end of this month. The new rules will be a verbatim implementation of the section of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 regarding musical instruments as carry-on baggage or checked baggage and will go into immediate effect. The League partners with the American Federation of Musicians, the Recording Academy, and an array of national music groups in dialogue with DOT and the aviation industry to ensure that these policy improvements translate into real relief for travelers. We will keep you informed when the regulations are final and will let you know what they mean for traveling musicians as we continue to update the League's online Tips for Traveling by Air.
October 29, 2014
Saving Elephants—and Instruments
The League continues to lead national efforts to urge Congress, the White House, and federal agencies to improve policies that impact existing, legally crafted musical instruments that contain small amounts of endangered species material. In the latest issue of Symphony Magazine, a comprehensive article describes the evolving policy dilemma on African elephant ivory, including the points of view of national conservation groups and officials at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Stay tuned for opportunities to make your voice heard. New draft regulations to change the rules for domestic commerce and travel with musical instruments containing protected species material may be issued by the end of 2014. The League will notify you when it's time to weigh in! In the meantime, you can learn more about the broader effort to protect African elephant populations by visiting the Wildlife Conservation Society and World Wildlife Fund.
To Carry On or Not to Carry On? Updated Aviation Tips Available
More than two years have passed since the February 2012 passage of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act, which includes a provision to ease air travel for musicians flying with musical instruments. With the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) yet to issue the necessary regulations to put the new rules into practice, the League continues to partner closely with the American Federation of Musicians and an array of national music organizations in conversations with senior DOT and aviation industry officials. We are advocating for swift implementation of the new law and immediate relief for traveling musicians. In the newly reorganized Aviation Policy section of the League's website, traveling musicians can find updated tips for traveling by air and links to key developments on this issue.
July 17, 2014
Ivory Policies Remain Center Stage
The League continues to work with the Administration, Congress, conservation groups, and music industry partners to pursue immediate solutions that will protect the domestic and international use of musical instruments, while addressing threats to endangered species, as a national strategy for regulating African elephant ivory continues to develop.
· The League and the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) submitted joint testimony to the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) plan to implement a ban on the commercial trade in objects that contain African elephant ivory. The testimony conveys the immediate impact of policies now in place that jeopardize international travel with musical instruments that legally contain small amounts of African elephant ivory, and calls for exemptions from travel limitations and future restrictions on sales of existing musical instruments.
· The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a new application form for a Musical Instrument Passport that enables qualifying U.S. musicians to travel through multiple countries, good for up to three years. Confusion abounds for U.S. and foreign musicians attempting to navigate the rules for international travel with instruments that contain protected species – including not only small amounts of ivory, but also tortoise shell, Brazilian rosewood, and other protected species. The League continually updates its Tips for International Travel with Instruments webpage with the latest news, instructions, and forms.
July 1, 2014
New Action on Ivory in Instruments
A great many existing musical instruments that contain small amounts of endangered species material - while legally manufactured and purchased - are now subject to new requirements for international travel, and may be impacted by upcoming proposals to curtail their future sale and re-sale. As the Obama Administration considers next steps in regulating African elephant ivory and other protected species material, the League is providing resources to help musicians and orchestras understand the new travel requirements, and is in ongoing policy conversations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Congress to seek policy solutions that address wildlife conservation goals while also protecting musical activity.
Use our very latest Tips for International Travel with Instruments, including a link to the new U.S.-issued musical instrument “passport” application.
View the League’s June 9 Comments to the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking.
Prepare for important opportunities to speak up. The next wave of policies will be developed through the regulatory process. Federal rule-makers will invite public comments on drafts of new policies later this summer, and we will let you know as soon as the comment period is opened.
The League’s work on this very important topic is carried out in close partnership with other national arts organizations, including the American Federation of Musicians, the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, The Recording Academy, Chamber Music America, the American Federation of Violin and Bow makers, the National Association of Music Merchants, and the Performing Arts Alliance.
May 15, 2014
Ivory Rules for Instruments Eased, Not Yet Fixed
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) today announced changes intended to ease international travel with musical instruments, agreeing that “common-sense” solutions are needed to address the unintended consequences of the recent African elephant ivory ban. The policy changes are a step in the right direction - in direct response to urgent appeals from the League of American Orchestras and other stakeholders - but are far from a complete resolution to the challenges faced by musicians intending to travel with and purchase existing, legally-crafted instruments that are essential tools of the trade.
A policy order was amended today to allow travel with instruments purchased prior to February 25, 2014 that contain African elephant ivory. New rules announced earlier this year prohibited most traveling musicians from entering the U.S. with instruments that contain small amounts of African elephant ivory. Following a new Obama Administration effort to protect African elephants by combating illegal trade in ivory, the director of USFWS ordered strict enforcement procedures related to the Endangered Species Act and the African Elephant Conservation Act, and this order went into effect immediately on February 25, 2014. The original order prevented travel into the U.S. with instruments purchased since February 26, 1976 that contain African elephant ivory. A great many musical instruments containing African elephant ivory, while legally manufactured and acquired, have been legally purchased after 1976, and would have been completely prohibited from entering into the U.S. It is not uncommon for professional orchestra musicians, particularly string players, to perform with instruments that contain small amounts of ivory, most frequently found in the tips of bows.
Instruments would still be subject to burdensome and unpredictable permit and inspection requirements, and the Administration is considering strict limitations on future domestic sales of instruments containing African elephant ivory.
March 21, 2014
League Weighs in on Ivory and Instruments
Yesterday, the League made the case for protecting international travel with musical instruments at a public meeting of the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. The statement calls on the Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to take into full account the essential nature of international travel with musical instruments, and to work with the music community to develop policies that support conservation efforts while also protecting international cultural activity.
On February 25, 2014, new strict limits immediately took effect for traveling with instruments that contain African elephant ivory. In an effort to protect African elephants from poaching by combating illegal trade in ivory, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ordered strict enforcement procedures related to the Endangered Species Act and the African Elephant Conservation Act. According to the broad terms of the order, many instruments containing African elephant ivory may not be allowed into the U.S., even if a musician is simply returning with instruments in his or her personal possession.
We fully support efforts to protect endangered species. We are concerned by very specific aspects of the ban that will significantly impact musical activity, and we are seeking a policy solution in partnership with our colleagues at the American Federation of Musicians, The Recording Academy, Chamber Music America, the American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers, and NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants.
Orchestras regularly invite international artists to perform for U.S. audiences, tour internationally, and musicians frequently travel abroad to perform as soloists and members of small ensembles. A great many musicians, particularly string players, perform with instruments that contain small amounts of elephant ivory, most commonly found in the tips of fine bows. Ivory may also be found in an array of string instruments, wind instruments, and certain percussion instruments. Musical instruments currently in use that contain African elephant ivory, while legally manufactured and acquired, are likely to have been purchased after ban’s cut-off date of 1976, and will be completely prohibited from entering or re-entering into the U.S.
The League is in ongoing dialogue with policy leaders to seek both short and long-term solutions that address wildlife conservation goals while also protecting international musical activity that requires musicians to travel across borders with the tools of their trade.
Please find more on the rules for traveling with instruments containing protected species material through the following links to the League’s website.
- Key background regarding the new African Elephant ivory ban
- Detailed guidance on the existing CITES rules for travel with items that contain other protected species, such as tortoise shell and rosewood.
Many unanswered questions remain about the process for being in compliance with these new rules, and the actual timeline for enforcement at U.S. borders is unclear. We will let you know as soon as we find answers. In the meantime, please contact the League’s Washington, D.C. office for more information.
February 12, 2014
Congress Speaks Up for Travel with Instruments
As of this Friday, two years will have passed since a groundbreaking provision was signed into law that would protect musical instruments transported in-cabin; however, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has failed to implement the new policies. The music community – including a close advocacy partnership among the League of American Orchestras, the American Federation of Musicians, and The Recording Academy – has consistently called on the FAA to complete the rule-making process that it has yet to even begin. Now, Congress is stepping in to tell the FAA to take action. Responding to ongoing evidence that musicians’ tools of their trade are often in extreme jeopardy when traveling by air, 35 members of Congress signed onto a letter this week to the Secretary of Transportation, urging immediate action. We are grateful to Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chairs Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), as well as Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN), Howard Coble (R-NC), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), for their extraordinary leadership on this effort. Thanks to the many orchestra advocates who responded to the League’s request to weigh in with the Hill. We will keep you posted as future action takes place.
February 7, 2014
Friendlier Skies Needed! Have Your Members of Congress Signed the Letter?
It has been nearly two years since a groundbreaking provision to support musicians was signed into law, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has failed to implement the new policies to improve air travel with musical instruments in-cabin. The music community - including a close advocacy partnership between the League of American Orchestras and the American Federation of Musicians - has consistently called on the FAA to complete the rule-making process that it has yet to even begin. Now, Congress is stepping in to tell the FAA to take action immediately.
Contact your Senators and Representative right away and ask them to add their names to the bipartisan, bicameral letter from the Hill to the FAA. Please act fast! The letter closes for signatures at noon Eastern on Tuesday, February 11. We’ve set up an online communication that will take just moments for you to personalize and send.
The list of those that have already signed on is below and growing. We are grateful to Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chairs Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), and Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN), Howard Coble (R-NC), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), for their extraordinary leadership on this effort. Ask Congress to send a clear message to the FAA – it’s time to protect musical instruments from harm in-flight.
Signatures to the Letter as of February 6, 2014:
Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA)
Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA)
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN)
Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME)
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN)
Rep. William “Lacy” Clay (D-MO)
Rep. Billy Long (R-MO)
Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE)
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ)
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY)
Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC)
Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA)
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN)
Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX)
Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX)
Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX)
Rep. Donna M. Christensen (D-Virgin Islands)
Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA)
November 21, 2013
New EU Rules Ease Travel with Instruments
The World Customs Organization (WCO) has announced that, effective November 21, musicians travelling through the European Union (EU) with portable musical instruments as professional equipment may use the “green” or “nothing to declare” customs channel at airports. According to the new regulation adopted by the EU, “Total relief from import duties shall be granted for portable musical instruments temporarily imported by a traveler with the intention of using them as professional equipment.” The WCO Secretary General has said the policy change will improve “cultural life and economic activities.” The WCO press release emphasizes that customs officials will need training to become fully aware of the policy change. Travelers may wish to print out the WCO announcement and regulation to have on hand. Also, note that this policy change does not impact permit rules for travel with instruments containing endangered species material. We will keep you posted as the League learns more.
September 4, 2013
Tick-Tock: Fall Countdown on Policy Concerns
With summer coming to a close, Congress is returning to a packed policy agenda, including an array of issues that impact the arts and the nonprofit sector. Thanks to all in the orchestra community who connected with policymakers while they were home for the August recess. There are plenty more advocacy opportunities ahead:
- International Policies: For U.S. musicians traveling abroad, the League has created a travel tips and resource webpage as U.S. officials begin to implement a musical instrument passport for instruments containing protected species. Updates will be made to the page as new information becomes available.
- Domestic Air Travel: In domestic air travel news, the President’s FY14 budget included a request for new Department of Transportation funds to support the implementation of new helpful rules on the transportation of musical instruments by air. Given the tense Congressional budget climate, however, the prospect seems dim for budget approval. The law containing helpful improvements for air travel was passed in early 2012, but has not been implemented by the FAA. The League continues to work with its coalition partners to pursue implementation.
May 2, 2013
Endangered Species and the Traveling Musician
Register today to participate in a national webinar providing guidance for musicians traveling internationally! Individual musicians and ensembles worldwide present their artistry across borders, often bringing highly specialized instruments that are essential to the quality of performances.
Special permits are required to travel internationally with certain musical instruments containing protected species, such as ivory, rosewood, tortoise shell, and other material. How can you know whether your instrument requires such permits? The League of American Orchestras, in partnership with the American Federation of Musicians, The Recording Academy, and NAMM, is hosting a webinar, featuring experts from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the agency that implements the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in the United States.
Join us on Tuesday, May 14 at 2:00pm Eastern for a free, interactive webinar that explains how to be compliant with the existing rules, invites your questions, and provides insights into what a new CITES instrument passport might mean for traveling musicians.
Register here >>
Please note: This webinar will also be recorded and available on-demand for those unable to join us on May 14.
For further background on this topic, please visit the League’s summary of recent policy developments related to travel with instruments containing protected species.
March 15, 2013
Endangered Species “Passport” Approved
Musicians traveling internationally with instruments containing endangered species material (such as ivory, rosewood, and tortoise shell) will have access to a new permitting process in the coming months. International rules have long required special permits for entering and exiting each country with instruments containing protected materials. A proposal to create a streamlined “passport” process was approved by 178 nations at a March 13 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
- It will take several months for each country to determine their procedures for issuing and recognizing the new passports.
- Under the new system, each country may also continue to apply additional permitting requirements for complying with their added layers of domestic endangered species rules – so the CITES passport may not cover all permitting requirements.
- The existing permit process is extremely complicated, and confusion abounds about the current rules and what will come with the new passport process. Limited information about the current rules is available from U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
The League continues to partner with the American Federation of Musicians, The Recording Academy, the International Society of Violin and Bow Makers and others to seek clarity and technical assistance for musicians on how to navigate the evolving rules. Some of the details we are pursuing include clearer information about the endangered species material covered by permitting requirements, guidance on how to access reliable information about the rules for such a wide variety of countries to which musicians travel, and accurate information about the penalties for non-compliance. We are also encouraging policymakers to ensure that any new permit process is affordable and efficient. Please stay tuned as we make further guidance available and contact League Government Affairs with any questions.
March 13, 2013
Instrument Passport Under Consideration
Important news for orchestras and individual musicians touring internationally! Musicians carrying instruments with endangered species materials (such as ivory, tortoise, and rosewood) require special permits in order to cross borders in compliance with international and domestic rules. Note that this permitting process is separate from the duty requirements and carnet process familiar to most musicians. This week, the U.S. is proposing an instrument passport concept for consideration by the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which may streamline the process for complying with certain international permit requirements. The League, in partnership with the American Federation of Musicians and The Recording Academy, has been in communication with U.S. Fish and Wildlife as it pursues an initial international discussion of the passport proposal. The current rules for obtaining permits are quite complicated, as there are layers of CITES requirements, plus each country's own domestic rules - and there is not a central resource for understanding what is required when traveling to multiple countries. While a streamlined process and the expressed interest in facilitating international travel with instruments is welcomed, the League, together with our national partners, is asking the U.S. and its international counterparts to ensure that any new approach takes into consideration the practical issues of cost and time involved with obtaining permits. The current CITES meeting concludes on March 15. Whether the passport concept is formally adopted, recommended for further consideration, or tabled, the League will stay in close contact with U.S. Fish and Wildlife to seek clear guidance on how musicians can comply with permit requirements. Please stay tuned!
October 18, 2012
League Weighs in on Cross-Border Travel Rules
February 6, 2012
Success! Air Travel to Improve for Musicians
An important provision that eases air travel for musicians was approved by Congress on February 6, 2012 as part of a broader package of federal aviation programs. The FAA has been operating on a series of short-term extensions since the 2007, and reauthorization has been a lengthy and hotly debated process. Throughout that time, the League and the American Federation of Musicians have partnered closely to advocate for a policy that will improve the ability of musicians to fly with their instruments in cabin.
The new law will make the process of flying with an instrument more predictable by allowing on board all musical instruments that can fit into the overhead bin or beneath the seat of an airplane. In addition to a uniform carry-on policy for small instruments, there is also a provision for oversized instruments that allows a musician either to buy a seat on the airplane for a large instrument like the cello, or choose to check the instrument. Thus far, airline policies have varied widely, with each individual airline responsible for adopting and enforcing its own policy regarding carry-on luggage and checked baggage. This has made it difficult for musicians to know what to expect when they travel. The FAA will soon begin implementation and airline policies regarding musical instruments will become uniform.
March 25, 2008
Draft Rules are Tricky for Touring
In the post-September 11 atmosphere of heightened security, touring orchestras have faced a number of potentially challenging new travel rules, from limits on carry-on items to restrictions on bows made of rare woods. Yet another rule under consideration could place a burden on orchestras touring internationally. In an effort to improve security at our nation’s ports of entry, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is proposing new, potentially cumbersome documentation requirements for all items shipped by cargo. While the draft rule would apply only to cargo shipped by sea-going vessels, DHS aims to eventually extend the rule to cargo shipped by air and ground. The League has submitted comments calling on U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ensure that new rules will not hamper international cultural exchange.
Read League Comments to DHS
September 27, 2007
Letter Confirms Pernambuco Decision
Please take note of a new document to have on hand while traveling internationally. A letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior officially confirms that finished bows made of pernambuco wood can be transported across international borders without burdensome certification requirements. This June, the international community considered an endangered species proposal that could have required musicians to obtain special permits before traveling internationally with instruments made with the Brazilian wood pernambuco - commonly used in crafting fine bows and other instrument parts. The League partnered with U.S. bow makers, NAMM: The International Music Products Association, and the American Federation of Musicians to successfully protect the ability of orchestras to travel internationally with their instruments. The letter can be helpful for musicians to carry while traveling with bows as they pass through customs.
June 14, 2007
Exemption Approved for Travel with Bows
Orchestras and individual musicians touring internationally may continue to travel with their bows, after winning an exemption during negotiations at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The international community met over the past two weeks to determine whether to include the Brazilian pernambuco tree on the endangered species list. Most fine bows used by string musicians are made from pernambuco wood. Negotiators settled on adding the tree to the endangered species list, but applying the listing only to "logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets...," specifying that finished bows that are transported internationally would not be subject to cumbersome CITES permit and certification requirements.
April 23, 2007
League Weighs in on Pernambuco
Negotiations are underway to determine whether the pernambuco wood that is used to craft most fine bows will be added to the endangered species list—and whether strict restrictions on transporting the wood internationally will only apply to the actual lumber, or might also be applied to items made from pernambuco, including bows used by traveling musicians. The League, in partnership with the American Federation of Musicians, weighed in with the U.S. representatives to the international convention, calling for responsible conservation efforts that will also protect the ability of musicians to travel and perform internationally with their instruments.
Read League/AFM Comments 23.05 Kb