Re-examining Crises as Opportunities for Change: Sustainable Forestry, Log salvage, and Hardwood production after extreme social, ecological & technological disturbances in Puerto Rico.
Established in 1983, Las Casas de la Selva (LCS) Sustainable Forestry Project planted 40,000 hardwood trees on 300 acres to explore viable alternatives to clear-cutting and short-term exploitation of tropical rainforest. We are demonstrating planting valuable hardwoods within secondary forests can reduce pressures on primary forests. Silvicultural techniques developed and applied at LCS over the last three decades show that enrichment planting of secondary forests maintains ecological diversity and health, while providing economic returns from sustainable timber production.
Puerto Rico, currently facing incredible economic distress, is awakening to the potential of sustainable use of its forest resources. Forest cover, just 6% in the 1900s, has grown to 60+% through tree planting and natural regeneration of abandoned short-term farmland.
Since 2015, Puerto Rico Hardwoods had been salvaging tropical hardwood trees destined for chipping/dumping at huge cost to Puerto Rican municipalities. Thousands of valuable mature trees fell during Hurricane Maria. The PRH team quickly started reclaiming logs, reducing the amount of waste going into overburdened landfills, transformed salvaged timber into value-added products, creating jobs, stimulating the economy, and demonstrating the value of wood!
Hurricane Maria was a devastating social, ecological, and technological crisis, providing a moment of huge learning. Novel approaches are necessary to build resilience and adaptability to large-scale disturbances. We have an opportunity to create new potentialities for PR’s mass debris removal after extreme events potentially powering the rebirth of the island’s lost wood industry. This is crucial since extreme weather catastrophes will be more frequent and of greater intensity in these unstable Anthropocene conditions.