Claro Walnut

The reasons for the vulnerability of the native stocks include hybridization with orchard trees, urbanization, and habitat conversion to agriculture.  Over the last three generations this has resulted in a population reduction of 20% and the remaining Claro Walnut trees are in fragmented and diminished ranges.

The case of Claro Walnut provides an example where knowing the source of the wood we work with is important.  Claro Walnut originating from the root stock of orchard trees or from home gardens is NOT endangered or vulnerable because it is constantly renewed and replaced with nursery stock.  However, Claro Walnut harvested from the wild is vulnerable and would perhaps be a material that we would choose not to work with because of its status.

I realize that inherent in working with wood is the killing of a part of the natural world that may be slow to return and if I become deeply concerned about this fact, I will have to find a new hobby.  I hope that such a time does not come to pass or at least not any time soon.  In part because I am concerned about legally and responsibly obtained wood, I am reluctant to buy from sellers outside of well-established and known vendors.  I am highly unlikely, for example, to purchase any wood from auction sites, such as Ebay, because of uncertain sourcing and documentation, as well as the potential, even likelihood, of material being misidentified in order to achieve a higher selling price.

However, due to the commercial scarcity of some woods, resorting to auction sites such as Ebay or Etsy may be the only way to obtain some desirable domestic, or in some cases exotic imported, species that are not routinely commercially harvested.  The potential risks of buying in these marketplaces have to be balanced against the desire to work with a specific species of wood.  That is inherently an individual decision.

I also realize that many, if not most, wood workers do not have endangered species lists memorized, therefore I think it worthwhile and important to do even a small amount of research before purchasing any lumber, domestic as well as imported, to be certain of the potential impact you are having, even in a small way, on threatened or endangered populations.  This information is easy to come by and takes only minutes to locate through any Internet search engine, including those you can access on your phone as you are standing in the lumber yard or store.  Unfortunately, you simply cannot count on a vendor to tell you a product they are selling is endangered.

Health Hazards

In addition to the usual hazards posed by wood dust, it is important to note that other species in the Juglans genus (such as Black, and English Walnut) have been reported as sensitizers, and Claro Walnut is likely to generate similar allergic reactions. The most common reactions are eye and skin irritation. It is also important to note that other sources list Claro Walnut as a severe allergen.  As always, caution is essential until you are certain you are not sensitive to Claro Walnut.

It is important to remember that although many people may, or may not, be sensitive to any given wood, the only experience that truly counts is your own, so use reported side effects as guidance but not as a substitute for cautious and safe practices.

Appropriate protective equipment is therefore always recommended when working with this, or any other, wood, exotic or domestic, unless you have worked with the species before and are certain you are not sensitive to it.

Complete information about health hazards associated with a wide variety of exotic hardwoods is available from The Wood Database.  Additional information about how to best use a dust collection system and personal protective equipment, such as respirators, can also be found through this excellent and comprehensive resource.