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International Perspectives:
Reduced-Impact Logging: Sustaining Tropical Forests and Biodiversity

by Gary Hartshorn and Robert Petterson
In Vanuatu, members of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission discuss the progress of Pacific Island countries in adopting reduced-impact logging practices from a political and technical standpoint.
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Gary Hartshorn, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Organization for Tropical Studies, serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Tropical Forest Foundation, and Robert Petterson, formerly Vice President of the Latin America Division of Caterpillar, Inc., serves as President of the Tropical Forest Foundation.
In less than a decade, reduced-impact logging has evolved from an environmental dream into a legitimate component of numerous sustainable tropical forestry initiatives. This issue of Global Leaflet highlights key factors in this remarkable change, discussing the economic and ecological importance of reduced-impact logging.

Conventional logging of tropical forests for premium timber usually extracts a few valuable logs (such as mahogany) per acre , ignoring sustainable forestry practices. The pioneering studies of IMAZON, a Brazilian nongovernmental organization, documented the incredible inefficiency and damages associated with conventional logging.

By contrast, reduced-impact logging confers both ecological and economic benefits. The USDA Forest Service funded a major analysis of reduced-impact logging in the Brazilian state of Pará. Carried out by the Tropical Forest Foundation, the study documented the win-win merits of reduced-impact logging: From an economic standpoint, reduced-impact logging decreases the costs of logging by lessening skidding time and improving felling and yarding efficiencies; from an ecological standpoint, reduced-impact logging diminishes damage to the forest through directional felling and minimal skidding.

What is the Tropical Forest Foundation?
The Tropical Forest Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable tropical forest management. Its members represent a wide range of industry, development, research and environmental organizations.

For more information on the Tropical Forest Foundation, please visit www.tropicalforestfoundation.org .

Thanks to its economic and ecological benefits, reduced-impact logging has quickly become key to national and international efforts to certify production forestry operations in natural tropical forests. For example, the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific, published in 1999 by the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, is helping to build regional support for reduced-impact logging in this region.

Commercial forestry operations are enthusiastic about incorporating reduced-impact logging into their harvesting practices. However, the scarcity of trained employees prevents reduced-impact logging from being more rapidly adopted. Through its Brazilian subsidiary, the Tropical Forest Foundation has developed a successful training program for reduced-impact logging in the Brazilian Amazon.

In forest-rich tropical countries, sustainable forestry has enormous potential for conserving biodiversity. Protected areas, such as national parks and reserves, generally cover less than 10 percent of the national territory, leaving extensive areas of tropical forests open to development. If unprotected forests are not managed on a sustainable basis for timber and other forest products, they are doomed to conversion.

The past decade has seen remarkable changes in tropical forestry as timber companies try to improve their bottom line. The rapid integration of reduced-impact logging and certification into tropical timber operations by many companies is especially heartening. We look forward to an exciting future of tropical forestry operations that produce valuable wood, sustain tropical forests, provide environmental services, and protect biodiversity.


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