ecological price is steep. Overharvest could not only
drive species into extinction, but also disrupt complex
interdependencies among plants and animals, endangering
entire forest ecosystems. Elephants, for example, play
a vital role in propagating several types of fruit-bearing
trees. If elephants decline, so will these trees.
bushmeat issue has opened a debate on conventional logging
practices in central Africa. For the developing countries
of the Congo basin, timber and game reserves are vital
resources. Present and future generations will depend
on their use and conservation through harvest practices
that are sustainable.
CARPE, the USDA Forest Service promotes programs to
improve forest management practices in the Congo, as
do many other organizations in the region. Richard Toupin,
a logging engineer in the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest
Region, participated in a 2-week assessment of several
logging companies operating in the Congo basin.
of the solution lies in reduced-impact logging. Only
recently introduced to Africa, reduced-impact logging
programs plan for minimal, sensibly placed roads, skid
trails, and landings. These programs also introduce
sound felling and bucking techniques. "Felling
practices and techniques present the greatest opportunity
for reducing logging impacts, as do skidding practices,"
observed Toupin. Sound planning in road and skid trail
layout can greatly minimize access to forest areas.
reduced-impact logging decreases impacts from road and
landing construction and standardizes practices across
companies, making operations more efficient. In the
Congo, the planning process for forest management should
include wildlife monitoring and hunting control, reducing
the threat to native wildlife.
logging has payoffs for all players. Through its use,
private companies can make profitable short- and long-term
forestry investments. Reduced-impact logging represents
one more tool for governments to protect the long-term
health and productivity of the land. Citizens can use
forest resources while leaving a strong forest heritage
for their children. Finally, conservation groups-and
government agencies such as the USDA Forest Service-can
help protect the Congo's native ecosystems and rich
biodiversity far into the future.