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Letter: Replanting Rosewood

Letter: Replanting Rosewood

by Erik Stenn

Originally published in American Lutherie #69, 2002


Dear Tim,

During my travels I have lived amongst and visited areas that have been heavily deforested. As an ecologist I am painfully aware of the impacts deforestation has on ecosystems both terrestrial and aquatic. As a luthier I am aware of the effects of deforestation on another level, namely the cost and availability of instrument wood. Certainly there are sources available, and I am not writing this to berate an industry — perhaps just a practice. The reality is that more species are making their way onto the CITIES list. What will be left for my children and their children?

Through numerous visits to Brazil to visit family, I became introduced to many beautiful hardwoods that are now rare. My guitar teacher works mostly with Brazilian rosewood but laments its scarcity. This situation, in conjunction with my father-in-law’s dream of having his children work his land, generated the idea to reforest the land (forty hectares of old cattle grazing grounds) with hardwoods. This project relies heavily on the participation of the entire family. The children have bought into the concept of replanting (during the rainy season) knowing that at some point in their lives they will begin the selected harvesting and continued replanting and pass this on to their children. Last year we planted twenty or thirty Dalbergia nigra saplings, and this year more of the same, with diversification into other species. In our minds it is not just replanting monocrop style but to approach this by recognizing possible synergistic interactions between species. Repeated studies have demonstrated that monocropped rosewood has lower survivals. Why Brazil? We had access to land that was not being used. If we had the opportunity here in the States we would do the same thing. It is a gratifying project. Strangely, we are capitalizing on the situation, but in the process are giving back and educating ourselves. At the moment it seems like a win-win situation. I just wanted to recommend others trying this too. ◆