IF YOU HAVE VISITED A DEPARTMENT OR home furnishings store recently, you may have noticed dozens of items made from Indonesian Teak and other dark, rich woods.

That's because, unlike The Home Depot and Lowe's, which recently committed to closer inspection of imported woods, some high-volume chains continue to accept wood products from countries with few environmental protections or forestry oversight. And they're not alone. Many lumber suppliers offer hardwood and exotic woods with a shady pedigree. They come from endangered forests or habitats and are often harvested and shipped illegally, especially from the “Asian rim” countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

“Builders need to ask where their supplier gets his materials,” says Brant Olson, with the Rainforest Action Network, based in San Francisco. “Anything marketed as imported oak or mahogany should throw up a red flag. Another big one is ramin, sometimes called rubber wood. Its export is banned in Indonesia, but it continues to show up here.

“Even when much of this wood is imported legally,” he adds, “the forestry is done without proper planning and conservation strategies. About 80 percent of all Indonesian logging is illegal.”

Builders and manufacturers (especially door makers), he says, should make sure the companies supplying their finish wood have an environmental conscience.

“You need to be asking for documentation,” Brandt adds. “Every product is issued a permit by both U.S. Customs and the country of origin