I've been to Madagascar and I've seen first-hand what resource exploitation has done to the place (not to mention poverty and horrendous politics). I've long maintained that Madagascar rosewood, so fashionable in the lutherie world, is being extracted illegally, but my lone voice hasn't been able to do much.

National Geographic's current (September 2010) issue has an article on this issue. I urge folks who think all's fair in the marketplace have a good look at that article. Many of the damning images and brief captions can be viewed here:

This map of the current state of things isn't in the slideshow at the Geo site:

It was all forest once. It's mostly burned out bare dirt eroding into the Indian Ocean now. Commercial trade in Madagascar rosewood has been built entirely on lies. There's almost none left. Please think about it.

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Part of the problem is those who get their self-righteous jollies by attacking straw men, while ignoring the nuances and practical obstacles found in the real world. Those wishing to be part of a solution need to move beyond sloganeering.
Thanks for that Howard, that was most helpful,

Ok, this is long but it's a complicated issue.

Russell said; “As for you not having seen anyone who would take the last tree and leave the ground bare - try taking a trip to Tasmania…”

I have seen this on a smaller scale here. I’ve seen the results of clear cutting too many times. You didn’t read what I said carefully. I was referring to this community of people on the forum. I haven’t seen anyone here that would take the last tree but no matter what you do there will always be someone in the world willing to do so UNLESS it is more profitable to leave it. “Don’t buy it” won’t work because it is unenforceable. Someone will “buy it” so the answer, as you pointed out long ago is sustainable wood sources. Unfortunately, it seems that there isn’t anyone involved in the issue of Madagascar Rosewood that has the wherewithal to make this happen.

Russell said; “ However, the economic fundamentals are immutable and no amount of specious or self serving waffle is gong to change the fundamental fact that demand creates profits profit - while the demand is strong the decimation of the species is assured.”

Of course demand makes profits but it doesn't HAVE to mean the end of a species. Demand also created the sustainable forest that we have today. Mankind doesn’t preserve anything they do not see value in preserving and it takes money to do that. Conservation is not cheap and in the case of a forest, it is dependent upon the convictions of the people that own it. In this case, the people who own it are NOT on board to conserve the forest. It’s unfortunate but it’s the reality of the situation.

In the U.S. we have many National Parks which conserve various resources. The profit we find in this, as a nation, is that we feel good about it. I’m sure that we could build a list of other reasons but, for the most part, that’s it. We are also fortunate enough to have enough surpluses in our economy to do this because it is NOT cheap. We talked about buffalo. Our park system can only support a limited number of them but there are more that than that in this country because some ranchers have found a market for buffalo meat. There is profit in keeping these animals. We feel good about saving them and we eat them.

To a developing economy, in today’s world, a forest that isn’t being cut is useless. Where they are being conserved is in places where the leaders of the world have convinced the “owners” of that forest that it is more profitable to them to keep in intact. That is why I said that I think it is good for people to want Brazilian Rosewood. I didn’t say they are entitled to cut the last trees. I just recognize that demand is what drives markets for sustainable wood as much as it drives the black market.

The U.S. allows importation of Mahogany in accordance with the CITIES, appendix II criteria. The idea was never to stop all exports of mahogany from developing countries. It is to limit exportation to sustainable quantities.

“Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. It also includes so-called "look-alike species", i.e. species of which the specimens in trade look like those of species listed for conservation reasons (see Article II, paragraph 2 of the Convention). International trade in specimens of Appendix-II species may be authorized by the granting of an export permit or re-export certificate. No import permit is necessary for these species under CITES (although a permit is needed in some countries that have taken stricter measures than CITES requires). Permits or certificates should only be granted if the relevant authorities are satisfied that certain conditions are met, above all that trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. (See Article IV of the Convention)

First two paragraphs of the following document outline the U.S. position on exportation of Big leaf Mahogany ;"

The follow link refers to U.S. Import information on Big leaf Mahogany."

The “Lacy Law” in the U.S. requires this that this documentation follows the materials involved. There have been abuses. For instance, it was recently discovered that much of the Mahogany from Peru may have been illegally cut.

“According to the report, over 80 percent of mahogany exports from Peru end up in the US, making it very likely that illegally logged wood is entering the US market. In 2008 the US passed an amendment to the Lacey Act which outlaws the importation, possession, or sale of illegally sourced wood; however the UAC has found evidence that Peruvian illegal loggers are circumventing the law.”"

The problem is that the Peruvian Government isn’t adequately policing their loggers. Does it really make any sense to cut off all trade in a case such as this? What Peru needs is help not abandonment. What they need to do is going to cost them more money but proper management will curtail the supply so the increase demand will supply the money they need. We will pay more for the lumber but then that is exactly what is needed to sustain sustainable forestry. There MUST be profit in it or it will not happen.

You commented that the lumber roads help farmers and ranchers in the Amazon move into the forested areas and I agree that it does but I do not think it is realistic to assume that not having roads will keep them from continuing to expand. It seems fairly obvious to me that anyone capable of clearing the land can also make roads where they want them. They make money by producing more crops and more cattle. They would continue the expansion with or without these roads and the fact still stands that this is, by far, the largest cause of deforestation in the Amazon.

The bottom line is that these trees belong to the countries that surround them. Much as we may wish, they are not ours to manage. We can make treaties and we can make our own laws but, in the end it is up to those nations to manage their resources. The trees can be saved but only if there is some kind of return on the investment and I just don’t see how a “don’t buy it” policy in and of itself can work. The greater issues of survival need to be addressed.

Thanks Ned.


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