Part of my tour in South America was done as a GFTN Mission. The GFTN (Global Forest Trade Network) is a program developed by the World Wildlife Foundation (yes, the folks with the panda logo). The WWF recognized that only by working with industry and developing active, healthy and responsible forest industries could they ensure the long-term survival of the native forests. The GFTN networks with companies interested in responsible sourcing and production and provides a tremendous range of tools and information for both producers and buyers.
One area of the GFTN program is the study and commercial development of Lesser Known Species (LKS). Everyone knows ipé, but how many have worked with angelim pedra decking instead? Some studies indicate that up to 93 percent of tropical forest volume consists of LKS. If we're to develop an ongoing healthy forest industry, we have to move beyond just ipé and jatoba. (Or African sapelli or Malaysian merbau-there are LKS in all the tropical regions, not just South America.)
Other groups recognize the need to increase the usage of LKS. The IWPA (International Wood Products Association) has an LKS taskforce and there are a number of USAID-sponsored programs throughout the world assisting local governments with their forest inventory and research programs. The USDA's Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis., works regularly to expand the world's technical knowledge base for LKS, analyzing their densities, durability, shrinkage rates, etc.
So the next time you're offered a new tropical species, give it more than due consideration-not only might you be a trend setter, you'll be helping save the rainforest.
Next week, let's consider the "in the news" story of LEED and the debate over their "FSC-only" policy.