Howard official pushes measure to help rain forests

April 24, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun

Howard County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, saying every citizen must do his part to protect the environment, has submitted legislation that would forbid the county from buying any product made with wood cut from a tropical rain forest.

"I think that we here in Howard County should begin to address the problem," said Mr. Gray, noting that the destruction of rain forests in South and Central America increases the prospect of global warming and often displaces Amazonian Indians.

"One way to help correct this problem, which has a terrible effect on the ecological health of the entire world, is to limit the cutting of tropical wood products by reducing the market for them as much as possible," he said.

Mr. Gray's bill is modeled after one enacted last year by the Baltimore City Council. He was persuaded to introduce it by the Columbia-based Grassroots Coalition for Environmental and Economic Justice, which is fighting the clear-cutting of rain forests.

Lisa Nowakowski, director of Rain Forest Action of Maryland, said similar laws have been adopted by the state of Arizona and the cities of San Francisco, Santa Monica, Calif., and Bellingham, Wash.

Her organization hopes to have bills introduced in Harford, Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

Based on United Nations data, an area of rain forest five times the size of Manhattan is cut every day -- a rate that would eliminate all rain forests by the year 2081.

Mr. Gray's bill, prefiled for introduction at the May 6 meeting, is similar to an anti-apartheid measure enacted in June 1986. That law prohibits the government from buying products worth more than $2,000 that originated in South Africa or with a company doing business with South Africa.

Mr. Gray's bill lists a series of tropical wood products that would be be covered by the ban, including teak, zebrawood and tiger wood. The only exemption to the ban would be wood products that have no acceptable non-tropical equivalent and cases in which the law would cause "undue hardship" on the county's procurement of wood supplies.

Suppliers would have to certify in writing that the wood supplied to the county complied with the ban.

"Contracts made contrary to the legislation would be void, and any employee violating the provision would be subject to dismissal," said Mr. Gray, a political science professor at Morgan State University.

Harry H. Bain, the county's purchasing officer, said he was "generally unaware of the county using tropical wood products directly. However, we need to research this to find out if some of these woods are being used in end products.

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