A growing environmental awareness and move toward responsible consumerism are definitely good things in our book. Sadly, there’s a lot of misinformation being circulated about what that means, particularly when it comes to buying imported lumber. Anyone who truly values this planet and its natural resources (never mind its people) will be grieved to realize that the Yasuni-ITT initiative failed miserably; the Yasuni-ITT initiate involved Ecuador essentially asking rainforest advocates to put their money where their mouth is and donate huge sums of cash to persuade Ecuador from drilling for oil. Yet anyone who understands the basics of economics is far from surprised. Like it or not, natural resources lose their value when they lose their market. By purchasing Teak, you’re actually encouraging the health of Teak forests.
The Truth About Deforestation
Did you know that logging bans, not logging itself, are a major cause of deforestation? While regulations can help contribute to forest health, they can also cause devaluation of lumber. When CITES or other agencies ban a lumber species, the supply chain stops, and those along it find another product they can legally source and export. As has been the case for Spanish Cedar, sometimes that ends up meaning that even when the lumber is again legally allowed to be harvested, no one is willing to re-enter the market. Other times, the land owners are essentially forced to use the land for other purposes, such as cattle ranching and agriculture, which together account for at least 90% of all deforestation activities.
Due to the ongoing saga of Teak regulations from the Myanmar government — and particularly the most recent talk of hefty export taxes on Teak — Teak’s future is at risk. You can do your part by continuing to purchase Teak.
The Importance of Cautious Teak Sourcing
While we don’t want to discourage you from purchasing Teak, we do want to warn you: With increased regulation, we can expect the amount of illegally exported Teak to continue to rise. Don’t let that deter you from buying Teak, but do let that make you extremely cautious about your Teak source. As important as many of us view our own responsibility to the environment, this issue is deeper than that: according to the Lacey Act, we can all be held responsible for the legal sourcing of any lumber we purchase or use.
Three main issues to consider about any potential Teak source are as follows:
• They need to be an importer of record.
• They need to receive the Teak from the Myanmar Timber Export (MTE).
• They need to include the IWPA license number in the paperwork.
If your Teak source is “iffy” on any of those three issues, don’t use them. In the post-Lacey-Act world, you can’t afford that kind of risk.