Jim Birkemeier is one of our most
inspirational local partners in
He is working to give voice and economic outlets to the people of Brazil.
They are working to fight outright logging and preserve their (and our) precious rainforests by capturing the value of wood from dead (and only dead or remnant) trees. Read on to find out why.
An unexpected meeting with an 80 year old forest owner my first day in Santarem Brazil, immediately clarified why I was right there. He told me,
â€œOur State of Para, Brazil, is the number one center of forest devastation in Brazil. The Timber Business is an â€˜Industry of Deforestation, they are hacking away at huge areas of the rainforest every day. The 3 big sawmills south of our city are getting most of their logs from harvests that are cutting down the primary rainforest. These sawmills are exporting the logs and lumber. The logging slash is burned and the land turned over to the cattle ranchers or soybean farmers. Today there is a lot of corruption and illegal logging, despite all of the International pressure and work by hundreds of organizations. The forest doesnt stand a chance – It is just a question of time, Brazil will be just like the USA – with no significant Old Growth Timber left.â€
During my 11 day visit at the confluence of the Amazon and Tapajos Rivers, other things I had only heard or read were confirmed:
Those forest owners in the Amazon Basin who do sell trees to the timber industry receive a market price of about six cents per board foot for their high quality trees â€“ about one third the value of standing trees in S Wisconsin. No forest owner anywhere can sustain life or business on those values paid by the timber industry. Only the â€œprofessionalsâ€ sustain their own jobs with all their talk about â€œSustainable Forestryâ€ – timber growers arent fooled but have had no alternative.
Billions of dollars have been spent to â€œSave The Rainforestâ€ by governments and non-profit agencies from around the world. Meeting with other forest owners just South of Santarem, it is clear that all that money has been ineffective in helping to benefit the forest or the local people. Nearly all of the money is sucked up by the system, gobbled up by those claiming to help, leaving little if any of the promised effect. The outsiders have come and gone for many decades and left little but confusion and frustration among the local people. Evidence of the plethora of previous programs is everywhere â€“ abandoned woodworking equipment is plentiful but rusting away unused.
The Traditional Timber Market is just like the huge Amazon River â€“ everything flows along in one direction â€“ carrying everything along in the pressure of the current. Anyone who tries any different direction soon tires out and is swept away with the flow. Any involvement in the Industry – Even if you have one foot still hanging in the River â€“ something will drag you back into the relentless flow.
Aldo Leopold wrote about this back in the 1940s, and it is unchanged today: â€œForest Destruction Goes On As Before.â€
I â€œknewâ€ all this from my decades working in and out of the timber industry, but after going to Brazil, NOW I KNOW it personally.
Timbergreen & Tapajos
I met with 20 people from the Tapajos Indigenous Workshop, a woodworker cooperative with 50 member families in 6 villages along the Tapajos River. Over the 5 days in the village of Surucua (a five hour boat ride up the Tapajos River) we shared many ideas. We had an instant understanding of the universal situation faced by small forest owners in the world dominated by the huge timber corporations. Their workshop attendance has dwindled from 300 to 20 over the past 8 years, due to frustration with poor markets for their wood products. These 20 men and women were looking for some new idea to give them some hope.
My proposal is to create a new timber market for any forest owner, anywhere in the world. FromTheTimberGrower.com is a new way to connect the wood customer directly with the timber grower. Here in Spring Green, we have already created a world-wide, multi-facetted wood marketing system that everyday sells wood products from our 200 acre family forest to customers all around the planet. Our sales are growing at an amazing rate â€“ doubling every year. Our goal is to continue this, and include other sources of good wood from other growers â€“ offering a new market alternative for wood buyers and sellers.
On the last day, I bought as many wood products from the workshop as I could carry home in my luggage on the airplanes. After some adjusting of the woods moisture content to our drier climate, these works of Brazilian wood art will be featured and put up for sale during the Spring Green Timber Growers Retail Stores 6th Anniversary Celebration December 7th – 8th, 2012. This will be the first of a new stream of wood products sold from the timber growers in Brazil to wood customers around the globe.
As one forest owner to others â€“ I offer an idea to market our wood together â€“ www.FromTheTimberGrower.com