Two county councilwomen want to ban Harford government from buying items using any of 43 tropical rain forest wood products.

Council members Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C, and Susan B. Heselton, R-District A, plan to introduce a bill tomorrow as the county's contribution to preservation of the world's rain forests.

"If there's no market for the woods, they're not going to be going in and cutting down the rain forest," Pierno said. "If this is approved, business may follow government's example."

The bill mirrors a national trend toward pressuring tropical nations to restrict development of their rain forests, which are habitats to many endangered species and contribute a major source of atmospheric oxygen crucial toprotection against global warming.

If passed, the ban would prohibit the county from signing or renewing contracts that require use ofany of the proscribed materials, which include woods found domestically such as balsa and rose wood and exotic imports like South American zebrawood and African Paduak.

The bill is similar to laws that took effect in January in Baltimore and this month in Howard County.

The Harford procurement office received the bill last week but has defered comment on how it might affect the county's purchasing or contracting practices.

But if the experience in Baltimore is any guide, the measure would probably have only symbolic value.

"It reallydoesn't impact on our procurement process in any way," Baltimore purchasing agent Ella Pierce said. "Most of these things I've never heard of. When we buy furniture we very rarely -- and we don't have the money -- to buy these sophisticated woods."

Baltimore analyzed its purchases and found that American mahogany was about the rarest wood in city offices.

"That was years and years ago when we redid City Hall," Pierce said. "We had an interior design contractor who recommended special surfaces in rooms that might be used for public occasions and most of that was wood (recovered) from old historic buildings."

The Harford bill would require all contractors to certify that they will use no tropical woods when fulfilling government contracts.

Any bid without such certification would be rejected as incomplete.

The measure would exempt purchases if the procurement director finds there is no non-tropical hardwood substitute or the proscribed product is required for restoration of a designated historic structure.

The effect of the Howard County law was limited by its application only to a ban on purchases exceeding $2,000. It also exempts products from loggers using environmentally accepted harvesting practices.

But Pierno said that any little effort helps.

"Slowing down theuse of tropical woods -- eliminating the demand and market -- that may be the only way we're going to save the rain forests," she said.

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