- WISH LIST
Learn how GreenWood entrepreneurs are earning a livelihood and preserving forests. See more videos of our work.
Turning in High Gear
GreenWood installed an innovative, bicycle-drive lathe in Honduras this summer, training two groups of artisans to turn wood-carving mallets and other high-value products. Responding to an invitation from the American Association of Woodturners (AAW), GreenWood enlisted Scotty Lewis of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, to upgrade a lathe design he launched last year in the Dominican Republic with the help of the AAW and its Turners Without Borders program. The two organizations collaborated in funding this workshop, recruiting an AAW volunteer to assist. The turning workshop was also supported by the U.S. Forest Service/ International Programs and contributions from private donors.
The workshop unspooled over a two-week period in May and June in the remote Sico-Paulaya Valley, and in Santa María del Carbón, an indigenous Pech community in Olancho where GreenWood began training chairmakers in the early 1990s. More than 22 young artisans from a half-dozen different communities were introduced to the operation of the lathe and the best practices employed with all basic turning tools—roughing and spindle gouges, skew chisel and parting tools—to transform a variety of (mainly) lesser-known hardwoods from secondary tropical forests into high-quality, salable products. Turning carving mallets, bowls, rolling pins and yo-yos, Scotty identified considerable young talent, exciting opportunities—and corresponding challenges—which GreenWood is tackling to bring this program to fruition.
Leonard G. Lee: Present at the Creation
Our dear friend and colleague, Leonard G. Lee, passed away in Ottawa, Ontario, on July 7. Leonard was the founder of several highly respected companies—Lee Valley Tools, Veritas Tools and Canica Design, as well as Algrove Publishing—and was a longstanding supporter of GreenWood and its progenitor, WARP, the Woodworkers Alliance for Rainforest Protection. He was “present at the creation” of WARP, having joined a handful of folks at our very first formative gathering at the World Trade Center in New York City, in 1990. He played a prominent role in the founding WARP conference at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and was a member of the organization’s first board of directors.
It would be difficult to overstate Leonard's influence on—or the sense of loss felt by—those who knew him. His humor, intelligence, curiosity and unflagging commitment to cultivating the "better angels of our nature" continue to inspire GreenWood and the many folks in the woodworking world (and far beyond) whose lives and work have been so deeply affected by his contributions to the field.
Leonard earned many accolades in his illustrious career, culminating in his 2003 receipt of the Order of Canada, the highest honor awarded to a Canadian for service to community and country. He is survived by his wife Lorraine, his sons Robin and James, and their families.
The GreenWood Board of Directors has unanimously selected Hank Kashdan to be our new Chairman. Having served on the Board for four years, Hank will replace Scott Landis in a position Scott has held since the founding of GreenWood in 2000. We consider the establishment of a new Board Chair—independent of our founder—to be an exciting milestone in the professional development of our young organization.
Hank retired as Associate Chief of the U.S. Forest Service in 2010, and he served the agency with distinction in seven national forest units across the west—from California, Washington and Oregon, to Idaho and Montana—concluding his term at Forest Service headquarters in DC. In a career spanning nearly four decades, Hank worked in law enforcement, as a U.S. Senate staffer and was Director of the Agency’s Budget Office.
A resident of Virginia, Hank holds a strong personal interest in forest- and wood-related activities and has worked with Native American tribes, small woodlot owners, and indigenous populations in Southern Mexico and Peru.
You can expect to see more of Hank’s “fingerprints” on future GreenWood developments, as he and Scott continue to work closely together to build GreenWood’s capacity and Board in the months and years ahead.
Congratulations, Hank, and welcome aboard!
Honduran Environmental Activist Assassinated
On March 3 the prominent indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres was murdered in her hometown of La Esperanza in western Honduras. A mother of four, Ms. Cáceres was subjected to years of threats for her resistance to the construction of the Agua Zarca hydro dam. She was recognized for her organizational leadership in 2015 with the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
GreenWood's Annual Update: 2014
It’s been an extraordinary year, in the most positive sense of the word—and the most negative. On the positive side, I returned from Mexico last week, where GreenWood and the Honduras nonprofit we founded, Fundación Madera Verde, received a $25,000 prize from the Vidanta Foundation for “outstanding, original projects to reduce poverty and inequality and combat discrimination” in Latin America. (We took third place in a field of nearly 400 applicants.) The Vidanta prize is one of two major validations we received in 2014—the other being our receipt in January of the first-ever Innovation Prize awarded by the Yale School of Forestry.
Between these bookends of recognition, 2014 also delivered some tragic losses, with the assassination of two Honduran colleagues—a young government forester and the dynamic mayor of our most dedicated partner communities. And the illegal forest invasions I reported last year have hardly abated. Remarkably, Madera Verde staff, artisans and sawyers continue not just to persevere in this threatening context, but to advance.
Silas Kopf Named Smithsonian Master
Founding GreenWood board member and former treasurer, Silas Kopf of Easthampton, Massachusetts, has been named a 2015 "Master of the Medium" by the James Renwick Alliance of the Smithsonian Institution for his exemplary work in wooden marquetry. Past honorees in the Renwick's wood category include Sam Maloof, Wendell Castle and Judy MacKie.
Silas is widely known for his inventive and witty inlayed furniture, which he has been making since 1973. His "Bad Hare Day," pictured at right, was purchased for the Renwick collection in 2008. His work can also be found in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum of Art and numerous private collections. He has designed and executed the decorative inlaid case of several concert grand pianos for Steinway & Sons.
Good Penmanship in Honduras: President Obama Receives GreenWood Gift
A box of exotic hardwood pens from Honduras, turned on foot-powered treadle lathes by GreenWood-trained artisans, was presented by the newly elected President Hernández of Honduras to President Obama at the White House during an immigration "mini-summit" on July 25, 2014. The enterprise that created a matched set of engraved pens from the tropical forests of the Mosquito Coast does not, so to speak, grow on trees. It was built entirely by hand—not handouts.
Twenty years ago the fledgling nonprofit GreenWood recognized that land tenure and gainful employment are fundamental to good environmental management and a sustainable society. Since 1993 GreenWood has been training artisans in Honduras, with the support of the U.S. Forest Service and others, to earn a living from well-managed forests through their production of high-value wood products—furniture, boats, carved bowls, guitar parts and the turned wooden pens shown here.
Honduras Mahogany Guitar & Uke Parts Now Available!
For more than a decade, GreenWood has partnered with the Taylor Guitar Company, the U.S. Forest Service and others to train Honduran community sawyers in the production of high-quality mahogany guitar parts from well-managed forests. Now—for the first time—we are able to offer the U.S. guitar-building market a small quantity of mahogany guitar and ukulele necks, along with a few sets of backs and sides. This is the dark, smooth mahogany so highly prized by the trade for its stability and its excellent “carveable” texture. It also comes from one of the only managed sources of Honduras mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) that actually comes from Honduras. It is legal, kiln-dried and carefully harvested from large trees to produce the good quarter and straight grain (and no juvenile wood) that meets or exceeds the expectations of high-end luthiers.
Good news is not something we’ve come to associate with Honduras, a country that has been overwhelmed by an explosion in drug trafficking and gang violence, which are contributing directly to the tide of unaccompanied children flooding our southern border. So much tragedy, so close to home, and so few stories of successful ventures that are making a real difference.
GreenWood Featured in New York Times
Check out Elisabeth Malkin's "Copén Journal" in the February 12, 2014, edition of The New York Times: www.nytimes.com/2014/02/13/world/americas/lawlessness-undoing-effort-to-save-honduran-forests.html
First-Ever Yale Forestry Innovation Prize Awarded to GreenWood
New Haven, Connecticut
GreenWood and its Honduran counterpart, Fundación Madera Verde, received the first-ever Innovation Prize from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (FES). The $5,000 prize was awarded by an international panel of judges, based on a joint presentation by GreenWood and Madera Verde at the 20th Annual International Society of Tropical Foresters (ISTF) Conference, held at Yale's Kroon Hall January 30 to February 1, 2014.
Link to narrated GreenWood PowerPoint on Yale Webinar (1-hour run time): https://itunes.apple.com/us/
Taylor Guitars Honored with Award for Corporate Excellence
In a ceremony on Wednesday, January 29, at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., Bob Taylor, president of Taylor Guitars, was presented with the prestigious 2013 Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) to honor the company's transformative work in establishing a legal ebony trade in Cameroon. Taylor's ebony sawmill, Crelicam, is breaking new ground in fostering improved environmental standards for ebony harvesting and better working conditions for its local employees.
Taylor explains that, when he first visited Cameroon, he was appalled by the large volume of "character grade" ebony that was being wasted in the industry's traditionally exclusive preference for the jet-black material. A key factor in their ACE selection was the company's decision to promote brown ebony as equal to black. "A lot of other companies were doing good work on the ground around the world," says Taylor. "But our decision to break out of the mold was the real game changer."
Illegal Invaders Threaten Forest Communities in Honduras
The community of Copén has been long recognized at a local, national and international level for its responsible forest management. In the mid-1990s the community established its legal forest management area and, in 1998, became one of the first certified community forests in the world. The following year the local sawyer’s collective joined GreenWood in a series of enterprising initiatives in the transformation of bigleaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), leading to the purchase and installation of its own Wood-Mizer band sawmill and the production and export of high-value boat parts and the ongoing supply of guitar parts to the Taylor Guitar Company. (The list of Copén’s clients has continued to grow, now including Collings Guitars, of Austin, Texas, and other North American lutherie suppliers.) These productive enterprises were accomplished through the community’s longstanding collaboration with GreenWood and our Honduran counterpart nonprofit, Fundación Madera Verde. In 2010 Copén was recognized as a model of sustainable forest management in Latin America by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
All of these accomplishments are now at risk by the unprecedented occupation and wholesale destruction of community forests over the last few years by illegal invaders, who have cut and burned at least 15 percent of Copén’s management area. Despite repeated appeals to multiple branches of the Honduran government—including the army, the forest service and legal authorities (Bureau of Criminal Investigation)—no concrete action has been undertaken to protect and enforce the community’s rights or the rights of almost every neighboring village, which is similarly affected. In fact, land clearing in the Valley has increased, with the establishment of permanent structures such as schools, churches and stores. Copén and several other communities, as well as GreenWood and Fundación Madera Verde, are urging immediate action by the government of Honduras to enforce existing laws, expel the invaders and stabilize its forest frontier.
Click on this link for more information about illegal invaders:
Click on this link for more information about wildcat goldminers:
Click on this link to view a time-lapse video of satellite images of recent forest clearing in and around Copén's forest: www.youtube.com/watch
GreenWood & Brian Boggs Team Up!
GreenWood is rolling out an enterprising new partnership with Brian Boggs, one of the country’s most creative and meticulous furniture craftsmen. Brian is a founding member of GreenWood and, over the last 20 years, he has been a frequent chairmaking instructor in both Honduras and the Peruvian Amazon. Many of the tools and techniques he developed and introduced in the field are being applied by our artisans in both places.
This productive relationship continues to evolve. Brian was wearing a different sombrero when he went back to Honduras last year, traveling by 4x4, foot and mule to source mahogany offcuts from our guitar-part harvests on the remote Mosquito Coast. His own company is growing, fueled by exciting new designs for outdoor furniture, guitar chairs and more. The opportunity to supply these lines with materials from our community partners’ well-managed forests in Honduras represents a major “win” for everybody in the supply chain—from our local sawyers to Brian’s North Carolina workshop, and now you!
Between now and the end of the year, Brian will provide a major donation for all furniture sales that originate with GreenWood. Check out the video from Brian’s last trip to Honduras:
And follow this link to Brian’s website to learn more about this dynamic partnership, which just keeps growing: bit.ly/1djy8ws.
Tree Sculpture in the Peruvian Amazon
Brad Sells creates exquisite wood sculpture out of roots, stumps and branches—the parts of a tree that the rest of the world calls firewood or compost. He has traveled widely in search of unique expressions of “tree spirit” waiting to be released with his chainsaw: mulberry crotch wood from a tree in Georgia O’Keefe’s yard, salvaged Hawaiian koa and exotic pink ivory, royal wood of the Zulu tribe in South Africa. In early June, GreenWood brought Brad and his chainsaw to the Palcázu Valley of Peru where we have been training indigenous Yanesha carvers for the last three years. The six Amazonian villages where we work are nestled between three protected areas, near the site of a renowned USAID experiment that broke new ground in the 1980s with its “strip-shelterbelt” harvest and transformation of a wide variety of tropical tree species. (This project led to one of the first exports of tropical timber from a sustainably managed source and eventually to the founding of GreenWood. But that’s another story…)
GreenWood Identifies New Plant Species
It is estimated that more than half of the millions of species on earth live in tropical rainforests, and many—if not most—have yet to be discovered. Economically valuable plants are usually the first to be identified. But last year, GreenWood forestry consultant, Alex Karney, was surprised to find that a familiar epiphytic vine, which has been harvested for decades by local artisans in the Nombre de Dios Mountains of Northern Honduras, had been misidentified. In the process, Alex had the rare opportunity to identify and name a new species, which we expect will open the door to more exciting discoveries.
Known locally as “mimbre,” Monstera maderaverde is an epiphyte whose roots are used by Honduran artisans to weave hats, baskets, furniture and sculpture for sale mainly in local markets. An epiphyte is a plant that spends some or all of its life cycle on another host. In this case, M. maderaverde begins its life rooted in the soil, but then seeks out a shaded environment, most often a tree. It appears to grow on anything, employing a “grappling” mechanism of small woody projections to attach itself to a supporting structure—such as a tree trunk—as it climbs. Because it is endemic to a relatively small, isolated region of Honduras, Monstera maderaverde has been overlooked by researchers…until now.
GreenWood Launches New Mahogany DNA Pilot
Jurassic Park: Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You?
by Alex Karney
From blockbuster movies to a variety of CSI-inspired crime shows, the use of genetics to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks has absorbed the popular imagination. In the 2002 Spiderman film, even Peter Parker was bitten by a genetically-modified spider, rather than the radioactive specimen that was fueled by 1960s nuclear paranoia. Such fantasies may be plausible enough to attract audiences, but they make it difficult to separate fiction from fact.
In reality, genome mapping is becoming much more accessible. The cost has fallen precipitously in the last decade, and the trend is expected to continue. What might this mean for tropical forest management?
MaderaVerde Executive Director Melvin Cruz was awarded the distinction of “Outstanding Forester of the Year” by his peers. At a ceremony held on May 29, 2010, in Siguatepeque, Honduras, the College of Professional Foresters of Honduras (COLPROFORH) recognized Melvin for his “excellent service in the field of forestry science.”
Melvin is a tireless and dedicated pioneer of the social forestry movement in Honduras and an inspiration to all who have seen him in action. GreenWood extends its hearty congratulations to Melvin and his family and to all of our friends and colleagues at Fundación MaderaVerde—GreenWood’s longstanding partner in Honduras—for this well-deserved recognition.
Melvin is shown (in the vest) at center, in the photo above, with a group of indigenous Pech para-technical foresters, trained by MaderaVerde in Santa María del Carbón, Olancho, Honduras.
PlanetShifter.Com Interviews GreenWood President
Launching the New Year and a new decade, PlanetShifter.com founder Willi Paul posted an interview on January 4, 2010, with GreenWood President Scott Landis, entitled "The Sustainable Heart in GreenWoodGlobal.org: Timber-Tracking to Furniture Making." PlanetShifter is a "think tank for cutting edge green news" and, along with its companion eMagazine, GreenCatcherUnion.com, the website provides a green portal for artists, musicians, writers and inventors from around the world to post their work and exchange ideas.
Yanesha Scorp: Reinventing Traditional Tools in the Amazon
A new GreenWood tool is changing the way Yanesha carvers in the Peruvian Amazon are attacking their work. Observing the limitations of the traditional, curved hand adze, which is difficult to control and sharpen and leaves a roughly textured surface, GreenWood mentor, Brian Boggs, set about reinventing the wheel. The sculptor's adze has been in use since at least the Bronze Age, but Brian hasn't met a tool or technology he wasn't tempted to refine. A preeminent chairmaker and designer in Asheville, North Carolina, Brian has patented designs for such venerable woodworking instruments as the spokeshave and the shaving horse. At a GreenWood workshop Brian recently conducted in Peru with Yanesha artisans from the Palcázu Valley, he introduced a simple hand tool that produces a much smoother surface than the adze, with a lot less energy and risk.
"Mantis" on Tour
It's common enough for students to be inspired by their teacher, but Curtis Buchanan was so fired up by the indigenous Peruvian artisans he taught last year, that he went home and redesigned the Windsor chairs he's been building for more than two decades. In February 2008 Curtis and Brian Boggs conducted a GreenWood chairmaking workshop in Oxapampa, Peru, with a group of Yanesha artisans from the Palcázu Valley in the central Amazon. Impressed by their carving ability, Curtis focused his attention on the sculpted seat, greatly increasing its depth and accentuating its dramatic profile, shown in the photo at right. The thicker seat made it possible for him to streamline both the back and the legs, thereby eliminating some of the traditional structural elements that have helped define the Windsor form for nearly 300 years.
Global is Local
GreenWood is launching a state-of-the-art timber-tracking program in the buffer zone of the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve of Honduras—a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most pristine forest areas in tropical America. The carefully monitored system of applied bar codes will enable GreenWood and its client, Taylor Guitar Company, to track each of the critical control points in their supply chain of mahogany guitar parts, identifying the origin of the wood and ensuring the integrity of their supply. Owners of a Taylor guitar will be able to identify the actual rainforest location from which the materials in their instrument were derived and confirm that the wood came from a well-managed source.
Model Forests in Honduras
After five years and six export containers of mahogany guitar parts, produced by GreenWood-trained sawyers in Honduras for the Taylor Guitar Company of California, our keystone community partner, Copén, was recently nominated by the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) as one of 41 "Model Forests" in Latin America. Copén's forestry practices are managed by GreenWood's collaborating partner, Fundación MaderaVerde. The FAO evaluation was conducted by a panel of experts according to the principles, criteria and indicators of the orgranization's Model Forest program.
"Chairmen" of Peru
Building on the solid foundation of two Peru workshops conducted earlier this year by GreenWood artisan mentors, Brian Boggs and Curtis Buchanan, Brian departed at the end of October for a third chairmaking session in the Central Amazon.
New Community Joins Guitar-Part Production
Following more than five years of groundbreaking GreenWood boatbuilding and sawmilling workshops and forest management training in the community of Copén, a second community cooperative has joined the GreenWood enterprise.
Discovery Shoots GreenWood for EcoHero Series
A Discovery Channel film crew joined GreenWood and Fundación MaderaVerde staff in a field tour of several communities on the North Coast of Honduras.