Seal of Approval ... for Logging

For many environmentalists, the key to protecting the world's forests sits in a 25,000-square-foot warehouse in Berkeley, Calif.

Owned by a company called EcoTimber, the warehouse holds hundreds of thousands of board feet of "certified" lumber. The wood has come from forests that independent environmental and forestry groups have concluded are logged in an environmentally sound and sustainable way.

"We're sort of like the first organic grocery stores that opened in the late '60s and early '70s," says EcoTimber's Jason Grant.

Even as world leaders at the United Nations debate whether to call for a treaty to protect forests, many environmentalists find themselves in the unusual position of opposing the move. They believe operations like EcoTimber and other independent efforts already under way will be more effective.

"In our view, negotiating a treaty is a cop-out of the most extreme nature," says the National Wildlife Federation's Barbara Bramble. "It will simply give countries an excuse to ... not take any concrete actions now."

The certification movement was started in 1989 by the Rainforest Alliance, a nonprofit environmental group based in New York. Richard Donovan, director of the alliance's "Smartwood" certification program, says people at first thought, "What you're doing is crazy."

"By the end of this calendar year ... there will be as many as 25 million acres certified worldwide; there are now certifications occurring in over 15 countries, and five groups doing the certifying," Mr. Donovan says.

He acknowledges that 25 million acres is the equivalent of a small grove among hundreds of millions of forest acres at risk. But it is a start, he says. If people pressure governments and corporations to use certified woods, it could be the foundation for a sustainable future.

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