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At a store near you: ecofriendly lumber

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And, slowly, the profits are coming. In the past three months, international wood brokers have placed orders here for more than 1.5 million board feet, valued at $3 million - the largest order since certification began seven years ago. It may be small - worldwide trade in forest products totaled $160 billion last year, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization - but conservationists hope it represents things to come.

Guatemala's National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), in cooperation with the Rainforest Alliance and other NGOs, has given 12 communities living in designated "multipurpose areas" within the biosphere concessions of about 125,000 to 200,000 acres each.

These communities are charged with harvesting the forest in a sustainable manner: dividing the land into productive sections and logging only a few areas - of certain age and species - at a time each year.

The wood the community harvests is monitored and then certified by the Rainforest Alliance's independent auditing agency called SmartWood. All told, more than 32 million acres in the Americas, Europe, and Asia have been certified by SmartWood, the first such program accredited by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC), based in Bonn, Germany. In Central America, says Carrera, Guatemala is a model. Here, 1.1 million acres have been certified; in Nicaragua, by comparison, only 37,000 acres have been certified to date. Since FSC's inception in 1993, more than 115 million acres have been certified worldwide, about 1 percent of all forests.

CONAP estimates that 40 percent of the forest here has already been lost, but where the program has been implemented that number falls to a mere 1 percent.

Meanwhile, of the 90,000 people who live in the biosphere, the majority of whom live below the poverty line, 6,110 people are registered in the concessions program. Carrera says people involved in the concessions earn, on average, at least $2,400 a year, double what those who sell wood illegally make.

These days, everything from crown molding to floorboards, decking to wheelbarrow handles - even Gibson guitars - is being made from certified lumber.

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