12/15/13

Concrete Boardwalks Save Tropical Forests

The City of New York is historically the biggest consumer of tropical hardwoods in North America. But in 2008, after years of lobbying by environmental groups like Rainforest Relief and New York Climate Action Group, the city began phasing out tropical hardwoods for benches, boardwalks and bridge decking.

Rainforest Relief, after tracing the lumber in the Coney Island boardwalk to the Amazon rainforest, began lobbying the city in 1995 to stop using rainforest hardwoods.  The New York Climate Action Group joined the campaign in 2008.

In a speech during climate talks in Bali in 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg acknowledged that New York, like many cities, used tropical hardwoods in its extensive beach boardwalks and bridge walkways.  Going forward, he said, the NYC Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability would begin scaling back the city's use of tropical hardwoods.

Rainforest Relief praised Bloomberg's initiative as "the most progress...seen on this issue in a decade," and called on other city and state agencies to follow Bloomberg's lead by weaning themselves off of rainforest hardwoods.

But in a statement issued on Earth Day 2010, Rainforest Relief scored the city's anemic commitment to scaling back the use of rainforest hardwoods as "too little, too late." Tropical rainforests and the ecosystems they contain could be nearly wiped out within the next century.

Not buying imported tropical hardwoods helps prevent the deforestation of the world's tropics, which accounts for as much as 30% of human-sourced greenhouse gases, the engine of climate change.

The market in tropical hardwoods is primarily driven by export demand. And once loggers have bulldozed roads to get to high-value hardwood species for export, the forest is open to slash-and burn farmers and others seeking to exploit its resources.

Preventing tropical deforestation -- leaving ancient trees in intact rainforest canopies and ecosystems instead of cutting them down for park benches and boardwalks in New York City -- is a highly cost-effective way to curb greenhouse gases and slow the progress of climate change.

Rainforest Relief is on Facebook.

The post from Mongabay.

As the newspapers never seem to tire of telling us, Coney Islanders are very attached to their boardwalks [New York Times.] 

Rainforest Relief lobbying MTA to get tropical hardwoods out of track ties [New York Times.]

"What, Me Worry?" The City of Long Beach orders rainforest lumber for its post-Sandy rebuild [CBS Local.]

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