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Amazonia: Changing the Face of Logging
by Johan C. Zweede
Reduced-impact logging in Amazonia: better for the environment and better for business.
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Johan Zweede is the director of Fundaçao Floresta Tropical, the Brazilian subsidiary of the Tropical Forest Foundation, in Belém, Pará, Brazil.

Rubber, quinine, Brazil nuts--many common products originated in the Amazon basin. Yet we have tapped only a tiny fraction of Amazonia's potential. Whether for food, for pharmaceuticals, or for "ecological services" such as carbon sequestration, the Amazon rainforest is an invaluable resource for future generations worldwide.

That future potential is threatened. Thousands of square miles of rainforest are lost each year due to deforestation.

For developing Amazonia countries with surging populations, forest preservation throughout Amazonia's vast interior is not a viable option. But forest conservation might be another matter. Can the countries that share Amazonia's resources both use the rainforest for timber and conserve its wealth for future generations?

In 1994, the Tropical Forest Foundation--supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and others--set out to find the answer in cooperation with its Brazilian subsidiary, the Fundaçao Floresta Tropical. Working with local landowners, the Fundaçao Floresta Tropical established study plots for comparing conventional logging to sustainable forest management through reduced-impact logging. Conditions vary widely across Amazonia, so the Fundaçao Floresta Tropical used the same reduced-impact logging approach to develop different models on different sites.

Results are striking. Through careful planning, training, and technology application, reduced-impact logging can diminish the amount of ground disturbed and the damage done to remaining trees by up to 50 percent and the volume of residues left behind by logging by two-thirds. Reduced-impact logging also creates more local jobs than conventional logging, helping to stabilize local communities. Moreover, reduced-impact logging is cost-effective: At one study site, cost per cubic meter of wood produced was 12 percent less using reduced-impact logging than using conventional logging.

Training is key. The Fundaçao Floresta Tropical provides onsite training for foresters and forestry instructors at all levels--from tree identifiers to landowners. Technology transfer, extension, research, and publication programs round out the Fundaçao Floresta Tropical's activities.

Building on its success, the Fundaçao Floresta Tropical is transforming itself into a permanent forest management and training center based on partnerships among the Brazilian government, industry, and nongovernmental organizations.

Today, by changing the face of logging in Amazonia, the people of Brazil can use the rainforest while still preserving its myriad benefits for future generations.

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