Responsible forestry in Panama
Darien, Panama – A milestone in the history of forest conservation has been marked in the dense tropical rainforests of Panama’s eastern Darien region.
As part of a sustainable forest management and trade project coordinated by WWF, the region’s first sustainable harvesting plan has been launched, ensuring that forest areas are cut in 25-year cycles.
“This ensures that logging does not exceed what the forest can regenerate,” said Mauro Salazar, WWF Central America’s Forestry Director.
Under the plan, a limited number of mature trees are harvested the first year in one forest area, cutting only four to five trees per hectare so that the forest’s ecological integrity is not harmed. The oldest seed-producing trees are not cut down so as to ensure the survival of the species.
The following year logging would be allowed in a second area so that tree species in the first area could regenerate. A similar practice will continue in other areas throughout the forest over a 25-year logging cycle. When this cycle comes to an end, a new one will start again in the first area.
This model is based on the “Forests Forever” concept which takes into account the principles and criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council, the world’s leading forest certification organization.
“This overarching approach represents a practical tool for long-term conserving, especially as the forest remains nearly intact after an extraction,” Salazar added. ”At the same time it contributes to poverty alleviation.”
WWF promotes responsible forest management and trade as one of the best ways to conserve the forests over the long term, helping communities that own the forest to generate tangible economic benefits through careful resource management.
“The project means taking care of the forest, protecting it and creating jobs for our communities,” said Franklin Mezúa, an indigenous leader from the Embera-Wounaan community who has been promoting responsible forest management in the Darien’s Tupiza River area for several years.
“Before we were working with the WWF model, timber companies took advantage of our indigenous communities by buying large amounts of wood and leaving little benefit for us, at prices way below market levels,” Mezúa added.
“Today we have higher earnings and we are sure that our children will enjoy these beautiful forests.”
• The WWF-coordinated sustainable forest management and trade project is being carried out by local Embera-Wounaan indigenous groups, with support from the Panamanian National Environment Authority, national NGOs, forestry industry and others.
• Additional support is provided by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the European Economic Community, Sustainable Development Project of the Darién (IDB), Fundación Natura, National Secretariat of Science and Technology (SENACYT), UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Global Forest Trade Network (GFTN).
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