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Rain forest project nets $1-million gift

A tax lawyer who has never been to a rain forest says he will give $1-million to a local botanical garden to build a small version of the tropical ecosystem.

Robert Kramer calls saving the world's rain forests "the major environmental issue of our time." He wants the money used to "produce a magnificent rain forest in South Florida" as an educational tool.

"A rain forest is a celebration of life, and we cannot let this get destroyed," Kramer said after the gift was announced Saturday by Fairchild Tropical Garden president Bruce Greer at the botanical garden's annual members' meeting.

The $1-million will be donated in $100,000 installments over the next 10 years. The money is restricted to rain forest preservation research and education.

And although the South Florida climate is not quite wet enough or hot enough to support a rain forest naturally, "this is the only area in the United States where we can get close," Kramer said.

Although he has never been to a tropical rain forest, Kramer said he has visited the temperate rain forests in Olympic National Park in Washington state.

"I was enthralled," he said. "It was so pristine and so green, I couldn't get over it."

He became interested in rain forests through a friend who constantly talked about the ecosystems and their slow destruction. Rain forests are being destroyed around the tropics at a rate of 100 acres a minute, twice the rate of a decade ago, Kramer said.