Sustainable Forestry in Puerto Rico
Located at Las Casas de la Selva in the southern mountains adjacent to Puerto Rico’s Carite State Forest, Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry & Rainforest Enrichment Project is dedicated to developing methods of using rainforest land in a manner that maintains the ecology of the rainforest. Registered in 1998 as a non-profit organization, Tropic Ventures Research & Education Foundation supports the sustainable forestry project in collaboration with the Earthwatch Institute.
The Puerto Rican Department of Natural & Environmental Resources (DRNA), together with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, have been supporting the forest enrichment program since 1983, by supplying seedlings and subsidizing planting costs to encourage the development of timber production in Puerto Rico’s forests. When the first line planting took place in 1984 it was with a view to replacing imported timber with homegrown products, and approximately 40,000 pine, mahogany and blue mahoe saplings were planted in about 25% of La Casas de la Selva’s secondary forest between 1984 and 1990. With workers using hand-tools in order to preserve the soil structure and minimize erosion, the saplings were planted in rows stretching from east to west, under a canopy of secondary forest. The saplings grew rapidly and ongoing research monitors the progress of the trees and their impact on their environment.
Blue mahoe (Taliparti elatum) of between 24 and 28 years old is currently being selectively harvested at Las Casas de la Selva. Native to Cuba and Jamaica, mahoe grows well in shade and is therefore suitable to cultivate in secondary forests. With its straight growth, which can reach a height of 80 ft, mahoe is well suited for processing, and its variety of blue-hued colors and interesting grain makes it a superb wood for a variety of purposes. Moreover, it is easy to work with and has a natural gloss when finished. Blue mahoe is popular for the crafting of furniture, decorative boxes and chests, floors, jewelry, sculpture and cuatros – a popular musical instrument in Puerto Rico.
Nature loving and eco-conscious travelers who add Las Casas de la Selva to their itinerary when visiting this picturesque part of Puerto Rico, will find that it is time well spent.