Boise, Port assist in rain forest conservation shipment

As wind and snow swirled around them, Port of Tacoma longshore workers rubbed their hands together for warmth as a 40-foot container was loaded aboard the Hatsu Excel Thursday afternoon.

When that same container is next unloaded in balmy Indonesia, its contents may mean hope for Sumatran elephants, orangutans and other endangered tropical forest species.

For this pilot shipment, more than 165 cubic meters of plywood was donated by Boise Cascade and trucked from its mill in Kettle Falls, Washington to MacMillan-Piper’s facility in Tacoma. There, it was transloaded into containers and trucked to the Port of Tacoma’s Pierce County Terminal.

The bright green Evergreen container was one of the first seven loaded with American plywood and dimensional lumber destined for use in Indonesia’s Aceh province – a region devastated by the December 26, 2004 tsunami. According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), this pilot shipment helps put in place a pipeline of building products from the U.S. forest products industry to reconstruction agencies in Aceh. This will flow will continue over the coming years.

WWF, Conservation International and the U.S. forest products industry formed a unique partnership to secure donations of U.S. timber to be shipped to Aceh province to rebuild homes, schools, hospitals and businesses – without destroying the already threatened tropical forests of Sumatra.

The unusual alliance is a response to Indonesia’s appeal for donated building materials – particularly timber – under the government’s recent commitment to environmentally sustainable rebuilding. By arranging a supply of donated timber, the partners are helping Indonesia in a time of crisis while preventing the increased destruction of unique tropical forest that is habitat for endangered species, as well as some of the highest diversity of plant species on Earth.

“This kind of partnership represents conservation at its best – business and the environment coming together to help people in need and save the endangered rain forests of Sumatra at the same time,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund.

“We are conducting the pilot program to ensure that the donated timber will arrive and be used appropriately by those who need it most,” said W. Henson Moore, President and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association. “Once that is established, we will have a proven means to provide a long term supply of responsibly and legally harvested wood for the reconstruction of Aceh.”

The December, 2005 tsunami hit hardest along Aceh province on Indonesia’s island of Sumatra. Greenomics, an Indonesian research institute, estimates that at least 1.1 million cubic meters of logs will be required for reconstruction over the next five years. Domestic timber harvested from legal Indonesian sources can meet only a small fraction of the demand.