Illegally shipped lumber finds new home at local school

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service received roughly 100 tons of lumber seized at the Ports
Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 11:51 AM EST
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EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - It was a fun day out of the classroom for middle school students in Effingham County.

“Today the staff of the US Fish & Wildlife Service at the Savannah Coastal Refuge Complex is out here at Ebenezer Middle School and we’re helping build some raised beds for the school,” said Monica Harris of the Savannah Coastal Refuge Complex.

Students getting their hands dirty helping prepare the ground and building the beds themselves.

“It’s important because we get to learn to build things more hands on,” says 7th grader Emma Whittaker.

An opportunity Ag Teacher Hannah Turner couldn’t wait for.

“I was absolutely ecstatic. I said, ‘can you come now please?’”

It is of course a fun change of pace and a great educational opportunity.

“A lot of times it’s hard for them to see grade wise, you know, if they get an 80 vs a 90, but if they’re able to see, ‘hey, I planted that. I put that together, I watered it,’ then they get to actually pick something from their labor it’s impactful for them,” said Turner.

But what makes this more than just your typical school project is hiding in plain sight.

“This wood that they’re working with actually has a story that goes all the way back to Brazil,” said Harris.

See this wood, called Ipe or Brazilian Walnut, didn’t come from a store.

“It had actually been confiscated from the Ports,” Harris says.

The wood had been illegally shipped and was picked up by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and from there.

“Once it’s processed through the courts it has to be given out to a non-profit, it cannot be sold,” explains Harris.

In this case it was donated to the school for educational purposes

Oh, and if you’re wondering Ipe, isn’t cheap.

In fact, it’s high quality wood.

“It is very dense; it grows very slow. It’s bug resistant, fire resistant and so it makes for a long-lasting wood for us to make these boxes because it will last a long time,” Harris says.

For wood that has quite the interesting past it would seem the best part of its story is still ahead of it.

“I just hope the students had a great time and students in the future can enjoy it and one day these students can look back and remember today,” says Turner.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service they seized roughly 100 tons of the lumber that was illegally shipped in this case and they’re hoping to use it to build more planter boxes for schools across our area.