Honoring the world’s forests
By Ashley Amidon

Ashley Amidon, IWPA executive director

In a White House proclamation honoring National Forest Products Week, President Biden poignantly said, “We give thanks for the beauty of our forests and the bounty they provide:  from the lumber in our homes and the paper we print to the medicines we take, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.”

Indeed, the world's forests play an important role in our environment and economy.  As the leading international trade association for the North American imported wood products industry, IWPA (International Wood Products Association) represents nearly 200 companies and trade associations engaged in the import of hardwoods and softwoods from sustainably managed forests.  Over 80 percent of our members are small businesses, many of them multi-generational, and we support thousands of U.S. jobs.

We are united in promoting the legal and sustainable harvesting of wood products from around the world. By building understanding and demand in North America for globally sourced wood products, we are supporting the continued management of global forests for both current and future generations. This benefits the local communities that depend on the forest resource while generating economic growth and quality jobs for those who manufacture, sell, and use these remarkable products in North America.  

Forest products are found every day in the places that we live, work, and play in unique and innovative projects utilizing globally sourced wood products to create one-of-a-kind spaces and products.  They have helped create American jobs and revenue from generational family businesses to new entrepreneurs that are inspired by the many applications of exotic woods.  Many of these are featured in our award-winning publication, "International Wood: The Guide to Applications, Sources and Trends."

Danny Schwalje, owner of AVL Custom Made in Asheville, North Carolina, creates beautiful furniture including a featured river table made from beli that is a fusion of functional furniture and a unique art piece. He notes that when choosing materials for high-end, creative pieces, performance is a key criterion mixing jatoba, Guanacaste, limba, and wenge as well as varieties of maple and walnut.

The Paul Reed Smith shop in Maryland creates some of the best guitars in the world. African mahogany is ideal for making guitar bodies due to its light weight, stability, and beautiful appearance. Genuine mahogany is also quite stable but a bit more dense and therefore stronger and better suited to the fabrication of the neck of the guitar.  These woods are a win for global forests and support quality jobs in the United States.

Ipe decking remains a very popular source for designers of decking and residential landscape plans.  AdvantageLumber. com, headquartered in Sarasota, Florida, specializes in sustainable hardwood decking options. Operating lumber mills throughout South America, manufacturing more than 70 species of premium grade decking and lumber including ipe, cumaru, tigerwood, massaranduba, garapa, and more. The company’s end-to-end business model enables it to sell quality decking and lumber products at the lowest possible cost.

These are just a few examples of how our industry is creating jobs and driving economic growth to every segment of the global supply chain, from producers and service providers to importers, distributors, manufacturers, and retailers.

These economic incentives are only possible by promoting a sustainable future for the world’s forests.  That is why our industry has worked with the World Resources Institute using USAID funding to develop our Wood Trade Compliance Training and Due Diligence Tools courses. We have trained more than 300 wood trade compliance professionals in courses held across the country.

Our industry is proud to serve U.S. consumers and businesses and advance the trade in globally sourced wood from sustainably managed forests.

Source: Ashley Amidon is the executive director of the International Wood Products Association. Established in 1956, and headquartered in Virginia, IWPA is the leading international trade association for the North American imported wood products industry, representing nearly 200 companies and trade associations engaged in the import of hardwoods and softwoods from sustainably managed forests. Association members consist of three key groups involved in the import process: U.S. importers and consuming industries, offshore manufacturers and the service providers that facilitate trade. For information visit iwpawood.org.

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