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New York City ends use of Amazon rainforest hardwoods in parks

New York City ends use of Amazon rainforest hardwoods in parks

New York City ends use of Amazon rainforest hardwoods in parks
Rainforest Relief/Ecological Internet
January 8, 2008

Decision to ban use of hardwoods logged from the rainforests of the Amazon for park benches follows campaign by environmental groups, who say the city still needs to phase out the use of Amazon hardwoods for boardwalks.

In a meeting with
representatives of environmental groups Rainforest Relief and New York Climate Action Group, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe unveiled a plan to phase out the use of hardwoods logged from the rainforests of the Amazon, which the agency uses for benches, boardwalks and the decking of bridges in the thousands of parks and areas overseen by the department. Celia Peterson, director of the Specification Office of NYC Parks, stated that as of last month, Parks will no longer specify tropical hardwoods for benches.

The issue was recognized by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his speech last month in Bali during the climate talks:

“New York, like many cities, uses tropical hardwoods-in our case, for our extensive beach boardwalks and also for the walkway on the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge… I’ve asked my Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability to work with the relevant City agencies, and present me, within the next 60 days, with a plan for reducing our reliance on such hardwoods.”

Photo by Rhett Butler

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“This is an exciting announcement and the most progress we’ve seen on this issue in a decade,” said Tim Keating, Director of Rainforest Relief. “It’s been a long, long road to get to this point and we thank Parks Commissioner Benepe and other Parks staff who have worked to find suitable alternatives to rainforest hardwoods. We call on other city and state agencies to end their use of these destructive woods as well.”

Rainforest Relief, founded in New Jersey in 1989, began a campaign to eliminate the use of rainforest woods by the city in 1995 after recognizing tropical hardwoods at the Coney Island boardwalk in 1994. Recently, the group was joined by a new hard-hitting grassroots organization, New York Climate Action Group, which campaigns to end the city’s use of tropical hardwoods because deforestation, mostly in the tropics, contributes an estimated 25 – 30% of human-caused greenhouse gases.

Logging for exported wood is the primary factor leading to tropical deforestation, as roads are first bulldozed by loggers, in their pursuit of high-value species for export. This allows access to farmers and others who then completely clear those devastated forests.

“People worldwide recognize with increasing urgency the need to address climate change. Economists and environmentalists agree that ending deforestation is a highly cost-effective means to do so. We hope that Mayor Bloomberg will institute a policy ending the use of all woods from old growth forests”, said JK Canepa, a founding member of NYCAG.

In November, Ecological Internet, founded by Dr. Glen Barry, sent an action alert about the issue to a mailing list of over 50,000. The alert generated approximately 200,000 protest emails from 68 countries to state and city staff and officials in the month prior to Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement.

“Maintaining large and intact primary and old-growth forests free from industrial logging is a requirement to address climate change, biodiversity loss and to achieve global ecological sustainability,” explains Dr. Barry. “Ancient rainforest logs belong in intact rainforest canopies and ecosystems, not NYC park benches and boardwalks.”

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