Managing forests for the future
A falling tree makes a sound like thunder.
There is an initial electric crack, followed by a rolling wave of creaks and snaps until the final boom as the trunk hits the forest floor. Unlike thunder, the sudden brightness follows the sound, as daylight floods in from the newly opened canopy.
A storm without end, the crashing of great trees to the ground can be heard hour after hour and day after day in the forests of the Peruvian Amazon. But some companies are taking measures to ensure that the forests weather the storm, and continue to provide both timber and habitat for generations to come.
As of 2011, more than 700,000 hectares of Peruvian forest have been certified to the environmental and social standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – roughly 90 per cent of that total achieved with support from WWF.
The Maderacre Group manages nearly 50,000 hectares of FSC-certified forest. “Environmental sustainability was one of our objectives from the beginning,” says Nelson Kroll, forest manager for Maderacre. “But we realized as a company that we couldn’t advance alone. WWF helped us early on with our first forest management plan and assessment of biodiversity. This is part of our commitment to investing in our future.”
Peru’s Madre de Dios region, where Maderacre operates, occupies the country’s southeast corner and shares borders with Brazil and Bolivia. With roughly 100,000 people, it’s one of the least populated regions in the country and home to dynamic forest and river ecosystems. However, it’s also the region with the highest immigration rate, and there is virtually no plan for how to use and protect the region’s valuable natural resources. The same patch of land may be designated for agriculture, forestry, mining, rubber extraction, Brazil nut harvesting or conservation, depending on which map you look at.
In the absence of clear regulations, Maderacre’s commitment to FSC standards is all the more important. There are national forestry and labor standards, but the human resources, logistical support, equipment and political will to enforce them is often lacking in this remote area. Some companies count on this absence of supervision in order to maximize short-term profit. The result is bad for forests, wildlife and people. WWF training is improving knowledge and enforcement of forestry regulations.
“We want things in the future to be as they are today,” says Percy Monteblanco Guerra, leader of a logging team at Maderacre. “We’re careful to leave the trees that produce the most seeds, only cut certain species and cut as close to the ground as possible to maximize the wood we get from each tree.”
It was not always this way. “Before certification, there was no plan. We just cut trees randomly. Now we know exactly which trees we can take,” says Monteblanco. “There’s also a total ban on hunting in the concession.”
(In another concession, WWF is carrying out research with radio-collared jaguars and pumas, demonstrating that well managed forests can still be healthy habitats for top predators and other sensitive species.)
Though logging will always be hard, physical labor, the men of Maderacre enjoy far more comforts and benefits than workers at uncertified concessions. In addition to a living wage and regular time off, the camp where they live for six months of the year is equipped with toilets and showers, and staffed with a cook. (Other camps can be little more than a tarp strung between trees.)
This investment in staff well-being makes good business sense, says Monteblanco. “Many other companies have high turnover because the men aren’t treated well. It takes time to train a new person. We only have two new people on the team this year – most of the men have been here for years.”
For his part, Monteblanco expects to stay on at Maderacre. “I would like to be a trainer for others in the camps,” he says. “Everything we’re doing is for the next generation, so it would be great to teach the next group how to conserve the forests.”