Is buying exotic lumber bad for the environment? How does today’s lumber industry actually affect the rainforests? As responsible global citizens, many of us are growing in our appreciation of and dedication to preserving our natural resources. And deforestation is definitely a concern. However, the facts indicate that the lumber industry actually helps prevent deforestation! So by buying exotic lumber species such as Ipe, Teak, and Genuine Mahogany, you’re actually contributing to the solution!
Today’s careful regulations by a range of entities — local, federal, and international governments as well as corporations — work together to provide tracking and verification, while ensuring both legality and sustainability.
Real Causes of Deforestation: Logging Bans
Have you ever wondered what the effect is when a forest is banned from logging? Its resources (lumber) essentially lose their monetary value. And without value, the property owners are faced with a financial sustainability dilemma.
This exact situation has occurred in South American Mahogany forests. Concerns over deforestation prompted logging bans. As a result, sawmills were shut down and jobs were lost. Since the once-valuable resource of timber had lost all value, the landowners were forced to find a way to make a profit from their land. Since logging would no longer meet that need, they burned down the forests in order to make space for cattle grazing or soybean crops. (This explains why cattle ranching accounts to 65-70% of deforestation, and agriculture accounts for an added 25-35% of deforestation, while the lumber industry accounts for only 2-3% of deforestation.)
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the lumber industry actually gives timber value and, by extension, offers landowners a significant motivation to protect it. Forestry companies also help stimulate the local economy by creating jobs and raising awareness about protecting our forests.
Hopefully you now understand why the International Wood Products Association (IWPA) says this: “How do I protect the rainforests? Buy imported lumber”
Real Lumber Industry Issues: Legal and Responsible Harvesting
As much as today’s lumber import business actually serves to encourage well-managed, vibrant rainforests, poor lumber industry practices from the past unfortunately haunt the industry today. However, governmental regulations are in place in order to prevent a relapse into irresponsible lumber harvesting.
Some governments regulate their forests more tightly than the US; in South America, this is often the case. Land concessions are granted to logging companies only once that company provides a complete managed forestry plan. Those extremely detailed forestry plans must include details for each tree that will be harvested. Once the plans are approved and logging begins, there’s plenty of documentation required — ironically meaning a paper trail that requires extra trees to be harvested!
Even with such stringent regulations and aggressive re-planting ratios, some species can become over-harvested. That’s where CITES comes in.