Tropical Hardwood Forest Conservation

Current Case Study -- Honduras Rosewood

A good example of why woodworkers should adopt a tropical hardwoods conservation program is presented by "Honduras Rosewood" (Dalbergia stevensonii). One of the featured woodturnings in the current exhibition at The Wood Turning Center in Philadelphia is an "amphora" vessel of "Honduras Rosewood" offered for sale at $6,300 US and described as a rare burl from Belize. The showing of this vessel can be found here.

  • Wood from Stevensonii is advertised for sale by U.S. wood dealers who specialize in "exotic" tropical species. Rarity of the species is actually a sales-promotion feature. This particular species apparently is sold for a number of different uses-even wood cabinetry. Read more.
  • Stevensonii is endangered in the wild in the two major Central American countries where this species grows: Belize and Guatemala. Belize has banned all commercial harvesting of this species; it is found largely in nature reserves. Belize is a small country. Germany initially proposed Stevensonii for listing on CITES Appendix II in a detailed paper submitted to CITES several years ago. Germany noted that there is poor enforcement of the law in Belize (similar to other tropical countries), that this species is not known to be grown in any commercial plantations or in any certified wild forests, and that Mexico banned logging of it as long ago as 1989. The wood from Stevensonii is very similar to, and can be confused with, Dalbergia nigra, the only Rosewood that CITES has placed on the critically endangered list -- Appendix I. CITES has ranked only three Dalbergiae in the world at this time, a major conservation failure. CITES member countries must come to agreement before any species is placed on App. I or II, and only App. I and II species are protected by all member countries. Germany's proposal to rank Stevensonii on App. II failed. In 2008 Guatemala alone placed this species on Appendix III, which is not legally binding on the CITES member countries. Guatemala stated that it needed the world's help to prevent this species from becoming extinct in the wild. App. III status in Guatemala is obviously insufficient to protect this species from extinction in the wild.
  • When wood is sold to woodturners, arts and crafts workers, and other buyers, it is described typically by common name (not scientific name), the country of origin is usually omitted, and the status of endangerment is not provided. Tropical wood importers acknowledge that a high percentage of "exotic"wood is harvested in violation of local and regional laws and that there is a lot of smuggling among host countries. Thus, the true country of origin is often not known by the importer. There is no chain of custody for these species because none of them are certified by an independent body like FSC.
  • The importation and possession of the "Honduras Rosewood" vessel appears to be a violation of the U.S. Lacey Act Amendments of 2008 (now being implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (APHIS) which makes it a federal offense subject to civil penalty and forefeiture for anyone to import or possess any product from a tree that was illegally harvested in the host country.
  • The IUCN Red List is a much more comprehensive and scientifically well-based of endangered species throughout the world. The Red List contains dozens of Dalbergia species but unfortunately omits Stevensonii.
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    Copyright © 2009 by Bradford F. Whitman. All rights reserved.