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Home to mountains, jungles, deserts, valleys, rain forests, and snow-capped peaks, Ecuador has one of the highest rates of biodiversity in the world. The country is geographically divided into four regions – the Amazon, the Highlands, the Coast, and the Galapagos Islands . Ecuador’s coastal region consists of fertile plains, sedimentary basins, and rolling hills. The Amazon Region is divided into two sub regions: the High Amazon and the Amazon Lowlands. The Highlands are comprised of the Andean foothills and the Lowlands are home to some of the nation’s most important rivers: the Putumayo, the Napo, and the Pastaza. The Ecuadorian Andes consist of two parallel ranges that bisect the neotropics creating a wide spectrum of climates, ranging from tropical and subtropical to temperate and arctic alpine. The result is a variety of habitats, which explains the extraordinary concentration of species endemic to this region. The Galapagos Islands, also referred to as the Archipelago of Colón, are located approximately 1,000 kilometers off the coast of mainland Ecuador and consist of 13 main islands, 17 islets, and dozens of ancient rock formations. Apart from the unique and varied ecosystems found on the Galapagos Islands, they are also home to active volcanoes that reach altitudes up to 1,600 meters.

Threats to the Forest
While Ecuador has one of the highest indices of biodiversity, it also has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation. As a result of a combination of logging, mining, and other activities, the Andes-Amazon and Andes-Choco of Ecuador are among the most threatened pristine forest ecosystems on the planet. Practically all of the native vegetation in the Interandean basin has been eliminated since colonial times and has been replaced by crops, pasture, towns, and exotic tree plantations. In northwest Ecuador, in the province of Esmeraldas, the last unprotected old-growth forests are now being logged by the timber industry and cleared for large plantations of African palm. The coastal mangroves are also being threatened, largely as a result of the shrimp industry.

Why Does the US Forest Service Work in Ecuador?
Since 2002, the US Forest Service has developed a cooperative program of technical assistance and training with the support of the USAID Ecuador mission, Ecuadorian institutions and non-governmental organizations. In an attempt to curb illegal logging and provide economic support to local forest communities, the US Forest Service assists communities with adding value to the timber and wood products they produce. The program of work has included market analysis, improving wood technology, and providing training on rural road design and maintenance.

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Improved Markets
The US Forest Service provides marketing technical assistance to the EcoMadera Verde community forestry enterprise, a cooperative project of USAID, Jatun Sacha Foundation, Pinchot Institute of Conservation, Overbrook Foundation, Peace Corps, and the US Forest Service. US Forest Service experts assist with the identification of alternative niche markets for wood products, create new networks for potential exports, and help prepare market action plans.

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Wood Technology
The US Forest Service assists community forestry enterprises in Ecuador with producing high-value finished wood products. Drying lumber is one way in which the value of timber can be increased, therefore the US Forest Service provides technical assistance to the EcoMadera Verde project on the operation and maintenance of their drying kiln. In addition, the US Forest Service provides workshops on machinery operation, improving wood finishes and on developing new wood preservatives.

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Road Rural Design and Maintenance
The US Forest Service has provided assistance to Ecuadorian foresters and engineers in rural roads design and maintenance. They have conducted field courses, which emphasized planning, location, design, construction and maintenance of forest roads, as well as the design and installation of drainage structures. The forest road training was conducted in collaboration with CARE International, El Programa SUR, and the Foundation Jatun Sacha.

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2000 US Forest Service International Programs
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