Dock of the Bay
Vol. 9, No. 15
April 12-18, 2001
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Building Green:
The A-B- & FSCs of Earth-Friendly Wood

Suppose, like a friend of mine, you are an environmentally conscientious consumer looking to do a little home improvement. Upon hearing that the home-improvement giant, Home Depot, has gone green by joining the CFPC and buying only from suppliers certified under the FSC, rather than the less environmentally friendly SFI, you hop in your energy-efficient EV and drive on over. But disappointment mounts as you can find no wood labeled "certified" - nor even a salesperson who knows what you are talking about.

What are we talking about? First, you'll probably need an explanation of some acronyms. Don't be alarmed, so did most of the wood and wood products wholesalers queried in a quest for certified wood.

The Certified Forest Products Council, CFPC, is a non-profit international organization that began in 1990 under the name Woodworkers Alliance for Rainforest Protection, which was nicely acronymed as WARP. It was founded by a group of writers, educators, wood retailers and wood artisans with a common concern for loss of forests around the world.

In 1993, the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC, evolved as a watchdog for forests. With 10 principles "for assuring that forest management is environmentally, socially and economically responsible to present and future generations on both local and global levels," the Stewardship Council accredits independent agencies that certify forests.

Meanwhile, the wood products industry has its own accrediting agency, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, SFI.

In 1999, Home Depot joined the Certified Forest Products Council, agreeing to buy from suppliers who use the more stringent Stewardship Council standards rather than the industry-sponsored SFI standards. By so doing, Home Depot makes a commitment to buy only environmentally certified wood from sustainable forest systems. On a broader scale, Home Depot appears to be forcing the hand of suppliers and other lumber retailers to follow suit.

Home Depot made the shift for two reasons, according to company spokesman John Simley, at the lumber giant's Atlanta headquarters. First, as the world's largest retailer of lumber, Home Depot recognized an environmental responsibility attached to its success. Second, environmental commitment makes good business sense. "If we don't insist on sustainable sources of wood, one day we'll run out," Simley said.

Now, Home Depot is forcing change with purchasing dollars. Suppliers who don't sell certified wood are told to "get to the end of the line" or get certified, Simley said. In consequence, the industry is changing. Suppliers are scrambling for certification, and other lumber retailers, including 84 Lumber and Lowe's, have followed Home Depot's lead.

Why then are Home Depot's shelves still stocked with old-growth lumber? Why is certified wood scarce? Because "getting certified" isn't so simple with so many hands involved.

Suppose, Simley said, Home Depot sells a door with inlaid mahogany. The door comes from a milling company that purchased the wood in planks from a wholesaler who bought it from a wood dealer who bought it from a mill that might be as far afield as Malaysia. The mill might get the logs from a wholesaler in Singapore who got the logs from a forest in Indonesia.

To meet Stewardship Council standards, buyers and suppliers must trace the pedigree of their products. This type of certification is called "Chain of Custody." It requires creating a paper trail to demonstrate that certified materials are kept separate from non-certified and are accurately tracked to maintain their authenticity throughout their manufacture and distribution. The Forestry Initiative, the industry's accrediting agency, does not use this stringent tracking method.

The other type of certification audit is called a "Forest Management Audit." This certification - which involves reviewing management plans and on-site managing practices - might be used for such wood as pine, which might have a much shorter chain of custody, coming from privately managed farms in this country or from government-owned lands. Several states already have certified lands and others are in the process of certifying state-owned lands.

A Certified Forest Products Council website search for certified sources of Eastern white pine in North America yielded 13 sources in the United States and Canada, most privately owned and certified no earlier than 1997.

Sustainably grown hardwood - like the mahogany in that door - should carry the FSC logo. Look for it when buying certified wood.

Home Depot was criticized by the Rainforest Action Network for continuing to sell wood from old-growth forests, and the chain has now pledged to eliminate old growth wood products by next year. This is an achievable goal, Simley says.

Back home in Annapolis, my friend with the home remodeling project plans to keep Home Depot and other lumber retailers honest by continuing to ask for certified wood.

-Martha Blume

Bush to Bay: Tighten Your Belt

At her news conference to unveil the new Environmental Protection Agency budget, administrator Christine Todd Whitman struggled to explain how reduced environmental spending shouldn't be called a cut.

"Only in Washington when you cut the rate of growth so it's not growing at the same rate does somebody call it a cut," she said, taking a combative tone to relatively mild questioning about President George W. Bush's commitment to the environment.

But for the Chesapeake Bay, there was no sugar-coating the numbers. Included in the president's reductions in environmental spending was a 10 percent cut for the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program.

In recent years, the Bay has fared well in federal budget negotiations. The climate has been healthy for environmental protection and Maryland's delegation in Congress has understood the importance of the Chesapeake Bay in people's lives.

Veteran Bay-watchers also believe that the Bay has been accorded special status because prominent people in the federal government fish and sail here.

But all that may be changing in an era when tax cuts are more important than environmental spending.

This year, the Bay is receiving $20.7 million. That includes $1.25 million for a watershed grant program and $300,000 for oyster restoration. Both were appended to the original budget by Congress.

Next year, under Bush's proposal, the Bay would receive $18.8 million.

The cuts were troubling at the government's Chesapeake Bay Program office in Annapolis, though no one wanted to talk publicly about them.

No formal process has begun to consider what programs will be pared down. But the new realities in Washington raise questions about whether the Bay partnership of states can succeed in its lofty goals spelled out last year: increasing Bay oysters by 10-fold and getting a grip on nitrogen pollution, both by 2010.

As for Whitman, the former governor of New Jersey and a proud woman, the odds looked to be increasing that she might rather return to her horse farm than stay in a job that forces her to justify cuts in popular environmental programs.


Roll Up Your Sleeves for Lyons Creek

A century ago, developers hoping for a Monte Carlo on the Bay poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into building a railroad that, as it approached the Bay, passed over a lovely tidal creek frequented by spawning fish. Determined locals spurned the planned casino and race track, opting instead for a quiet family-oriented resort on the Bay. But they kept the train.

In October 1897, construction began on the famous Chesapeake Railroad. Over 500 men and 250 teams of horses used muscle, sweat and hand tools to cut the 25-mile swath from Seat Pleasant to Chesapeake Beach.

But by 1935, debt, the Great Depression and new-fangled automobiles proved too much for the railroad. Its rails were removed and much of the road disappeared. But not all.

The old railroad trestles near Lyons Creek at the Anne Arundel-Calvert County line off Lower Pindell Road are in great shape. But the creek the railroad once crossed, a spawning site for yellow perch, is in desperate need of help.

So 104 years from the railway's clearing, Saturday April 14, Coastal Conservation Association board member and charter boat captain James Brincefield III of Deale is calling again for muscle, sweat and hand tools. The job this time is to clean and clear Lyons Creek so yellow perch can once again spawn there.

Which will make Brincefield's job easier.

"For years, part of my job was to conduct the yellow perch survey along Lyons Creek," said Brincefield. "It was always the same story. I'd try to count the egg sacks, but there were none. I'd explain how polluted and trashed the creek had become, how much it needed attention."

But Brincefield's pleas fell on deaf ears. That's when he decided to take matters into his own hands and organize a cleanup.

The ball Brincefield started is rolling full steam ahead.

Helping out are Coastal Conservation Association, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Explorers, Save our Streams, Jim Dicken and the Fishing Guides Home Page, Herring Bay Clean Water Initiative and Brandon White from Worldwide They'll provide refreshments, work gloves, tools, garbage bags, manpower and publicity.

The biggest items pledged come from Anne Arundel County Waste Management Department, which promises three dumpsters. "We will try and do some recycling too," says Brincefield.

Forty-five workers have volunteered their time. The work plan calls for four teams of 25 volunteers each, headed by a Maryland Department of Natural Resources captain. So there's room for more to come out and help.

"It took years of neglect to lose this spawning area and it will take time to reclaim it," concludes Brincefield. "When we do, there are others places just waiting for us."

But those places may not hold the chance to walk the path of history lost, to see the trestles of the Chesapeake Railroad or to help save a creek, spawning home of yellow perch, the earliest fish of spring,

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens and her aide Bea Poulin will be on hand at 9am Saturday to greet you.

From Rt. 4 southbound, turn right on Lower Pindell Road (just before the Calvert County line). Make an immediate left, go the State Highway trailers on the left and park. Southern States grain elevators will be on the right. Registration begins at 8am: 410/867-4944.

Or make cash donations to Save Our Streams · Make your check payable to Lyons Creek Clean Up Project. Save our Streams is an IRS Code 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, so your donations are tax deductible.

-Connie Darago

Chesapeake Center Opens as Northern AA's Own 'Hall' for the Creative Arts

The new Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts in Brooklyn Park began life as a winner. Only three months old, it's earned a first-place award from Gov. Parris Glendening's Smart Growth Initiative for innovative use of an existing structure

The Arts Center now on its way to becoming the Maryland Hall of Northern Anne Arundel County almost wasn't. But Del. Joan Cadden and a group of arts-hungry community leaders persuaded the Board of Education to scrap its plan to raze the old Brooklyn Park High School. Working with local and state officials, the northern county leaders rallied enough grant moneys to renovate instead of raze.

For $34 million, five resources were housed for about what the Board of Education wanted to pay for just one. For Chesapeake Center is but one part of a larger complex that includes Brooklyn Park Middle School, Recreation and Parks classrooms, a senior citizen nutrition center and the Anne Arundel County Police DARE program.

Now the Center wears purple as its victory color. Lavender linoleum is one of the jazzy touches that make the 58,000 square-foot Center into a palace of the arts.

What's going on on those purple floors is artful, too. In a studio with a superb bouncy wood floor and enough mirrors to please the vainest queen, Patrik Bordovsky teaches hip-hop dancing. On a recent evening, his arms and legs moving in a wildly controlled rhythm, like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, he demonstrated steps for two teenage girls. The girls were enthralled.

Have a yen to clog, write a memoir, paint a pomegranate? The Center, which officially opened in January, will accommodate and encourage you. Planned is a large menu of classes to satisfy visual, literary and performing tastes.

"The arts are not only for artists, but for all persons who want to find their creativity," says Wayne Shipley, the Center's executive director. That includes people with handicaps.

"Our goal is definitely to become a regional arts center," says the tall, congenial man who taught English and theater for 30 years at Andover and North County high schools. His second career at the new center keeps him busy, helping a workman move a piano, climbing a ladder, dismantling a theater set.

Several performance arts groups have taken up residency in the Center. The Pasadena Theater Company, which wandered homeless in recent years, is delighted to have a permanent new home.

"We are no longer fish out of water," company president Sharon Steele says. "I am overwhelmingly happy we can perform in such a professional atmosphere." The company's just-closed Camelot was the first major show in the center's Main Theatre, which seats 900. This theatre is decorated in beige, with shades of purple, of course.

The Actors Company Theater and the Harbor City Music Company have also moved in.

Shipley descends his set-building ladder to oversee a state-of-the-art arts center with two theaters and 22 classrooms on three levels, including a piano lab, dance studio and plenty of room for acting, yoga, clay and ceramics. Daniel Cavey, a ceramics virtuoso, is the first artist-in-residence. For his work and students, there's even a natural gas kiln "big enough to cremate Uncle George," Shipley says.

When Shipley retired from the school system, he didn't leave behind his dedication to youth and education. One of his goals is finding grant money to produce free arts programs for children. He made a start this week, introducing 1,500 kids from half a dozen elementary schools to The Bea and the Bug, an original musical with a point: Each person can make a difference in the world.

Planned for summer is a youth camp, with art, theater, Shakespeare, music and ceramics.

For Northern Anne Arundel County and beyond, the Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts promises lots more winners, as the artist in every child, woman and man reaches for a personal best.

On Hammonds Lane just off Ritchie Highway, the Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts is easy to reach via several major highways, including Routes 10, 97 and 695. Information? 410/636-6597.

-Shirley Brewer

Way Downstream ...

In Washington, the Tamaroa, the former Coast Guard cutter that gained fame as a rescue ship in the best-selling book The Perfect Storm, sold on the internet recently for $60,075. To bid on your strange boat, check ...

In Detroit, birds are in for a treat when Ford puts up billboards later this month loaded with tons of seed. The billboards in Michigan and New York are part of the company's marketing campaign for its 2002 Ford Explorer ...

In California, the Navy is slowing its plan to dramatically increase bombing practice near Big Sur. After a roar of objection from the community, the Navy announced last week that it would conduct a full environmental review before increasing from 200 to 2,900 the number of sorties at Fort Hunter Liggett ...

In Florida, a Chicagoan's 60-feet luxury cabin cruiser purchased just days earlier is blamed for the destruction of priceless, endangered coral off of Key West. The captain faces charges for turning the helm of the cruiser, Connected, over to the mate and the novice owner, who mistook coral buoys for fish traps. It was by far the worst of 180 groundings in the Keys so far this season ...

In Australia, participants in the CBS reality show Survivor showed their own ignorance of coral in a recent episode. Australian authorities opened an investigation after two contestants were filmed sashaying around their camp with hunks of coral from the Great Barrier Reef. To head off legal charges, the show's producer apologized

Our Creature Feature comes from Oregon, where new research provides clues about what is happening to our toads. Scientists had attributed their disappearance to the depleted ozone layer. But the study published last week in the journal Nature blamed global warming. The study concluded that toads were dying because warmer temperatures exposed embryos to UV-B radiation from the sun, rendering them vulnerable to disease. In a mere 20 years, 20 species of amphibians have become extinct.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly