Author page: thrity

2021 Innovation Award: Yale (ISTF) 2nd Prize

Since 2014, the Yale University Chapter of the International Society of Tropical Foresters (ISTF) has awarded an Innovation Prize at its annual conference to honor outstanding initiatives and ideas related to tropical forest use and conservation.  

Three ISTF Innovation Award finalists were selected to present their exceptional approaches, experiences or efforts relating to the 2021 ISTF Conference theme: “Timelines and Critical Junctures: Re-examining Crises as Opportunities for Change.” The finalists participated in a live pitch event over Zoom on Friday, February 19th at 13:00, and on Saturday 20th February, votes were counted.

Thrity was selected as one of three finalists to tell the story of Las Casas de la Selva, Puerto Rico Hardwoods, and the Institute of Ecotechnics. She represented all her colleagues and friends, people that have been involved for decades with these long-term environmental projects.

Video link:

3t’s presentation: “Re-examining Crises as Opportunities for Change: Sustainable Forestry, Log salvage, & Hardwood production  after extreme social, ecological & technological disturbances in Puerto Rico” won second prize.

Established in 1983, Las Casas de la Selva (LCS) Sustainable Forestry Project planted 40,000 hardwood trees on 300 acres to explore viable alternatives to clear-cutting and short-term exploitation of tropical rainforest. We are demonstrating planting valuable hardwoods within secondary forests can reduce pressures on primary forests. Silvicultural techniques developed and applied at LCS over the last three decades show that enrichment planting of secondary forests maintains ecological diversity and health, while providing economic returns from sustainable timber production.

The Homestead, Las Casas de la Selva, sustainable forestry in Patillas, PR
The PRH Team: Tom Marvel, 3t Vakil, Andres Rua

Puerto Rico, currently facing incredible economic distress, is awakening to the potential of sustainable use of its forest resources. Forest cover, just 6% in the 1900s, has grown to 60+% through tree planting and natural regeneration of abandoned short-term farmland.

 Since 2015, Puerto Rico Hardwoods had been salvaging tropical hardwood trees destined for chipping/dumping at huge cost to Puerto Rican municipalities. Thousands of valuable mature trees fell during Hurricane Maria.  The PRH team quickly started reclaiming logs, reducing the amount of waste going into overburdened landfills, transformed salvaged timber into value-added products, creating jobs, stimulating the economy, and demonstrating the value of wood!  

Hurricane Maria was a devastating social, ecological, and technological crisis, providing a moment of huge learning. Novel approaches are necessary to build resilience and adaptability to large-scale disturbances. We have an opportunity to create new potentialities for PR’s mass debris removal after extreme events potentially powering the rebirth of the island’s lost wood industry. This is crucial since extreme weather catastrophes will be more frequent and of greater intensity in these unstable Anthropocene conditions.

Dig deeper:

Enriched secondary subtropical forest through line-planting for sustainable timber production in Puerto Rico, paper in Bois et Forets des Tropiques. Dr. Mark Nelson, Sally Silverstone, Dr. Kelly Chinners Reiss, Thrity Vakil, & Molly Robertson

Journal of Sustainable Forestry, Volume 29, 2010 – Issue 5.
Dr. Mark Nelson, Sally Silverstone, Dr. Kelly C. Reiss, Dr. Patricia Burrowes, Dr. Rafael Joglar, Molly Robertson & Thrity Vakil

Institute of Ecotechnics IE:

Puerto Rico Hardwoods Instagram: 

Photos by: Thrity Vakil, Andres Rua, Raymesh Cintron (Drone Image), Ariza Torres.


In July 2020, Thrity and Andrés collaborated with Visit Rico to create the first public event at the project since the Covid-19 Lockdown that started in March 2020 at Las Casas de la Selva. The event was a Farm-to-Table dining experience that engaged with local producers, and chef Natalia Lucia delighted everyone with her cuisine.

VisitRico is a non-profit organization, directed by Camille Collazo, dedicated to the development of agriculture in Puerto Rico through education, health, and food security through the organic, community, and urban agriculture. They offer educational services through seminars and workshops for farmers in management, administrative, and technical matters. They advocate for the protection and conservation of the natural resources of Puerto Rico, and their vision is to be the engine of the agricultural economy.

Thanks to Raymesh Cintron (filmmaker), Camille Collazo, and VisitRico.

Fare forward traveler.

We are so sad to share the news of the passing of Sally Eva Silverstone, also known as Sierra, who was the director of Las Casas de la Selva from 1997 to 2007.
On 24th September 2020, she passed away in Bali, where she has lived for the last decade working with the Biosphere Foundation.

I met Sierra in 1999, having arrived at Synergia Ranch full of the excitement of a three-year voyage on the RV Heraclitus. I was ready for anything. For four years we were co-chefs on the annual 2 weeks African Drum & Dance Bantu Festival. I remember the day Sierra asked me if I wanted to go to Las Casas de la Selva to help her run Earthwatch Teams. I knew very little about the project, but suddenly I was planning a whole new life adventure. Christmas in Puerto Rico. I jumped in whole-heartedly and arrived in a rainforest, culture, and country I knew nothing about. Soon I was working with Sierra on regular trips from Santa Fe to PR at least four times a year.
Sierra and Mark had made a successful proposal to The Earthwatch Institute to survey the hardwood plantations of the project. Sierra had been involved in the early 80s when the tree planting started, and 40,000 valuable hardwood trees were planted at that time. We spent many happy hours in the forest leading teams of citizen scientists from all over the world, measuring hundreds of trees over several years, and I always admired Sierra’s forthright way of dealt with everyone, and we had a few nutters who signed onto Earthwatch Teams along the way! I learned so much about the forest at that time.

Sierra always encouraged me in everything at Las Casas, and in 2003, we headed up our first harvesting of Blue Mahoe, with a small crew. In 2004 Sierra gave me the reins to take on the wood production side of the project, and we carried out another successful harvest, milling, and drying. I give thanks today that Sierra had confidence in me and gave me the freedom to manifest. That manifestation continues today, and I know that Sierra, wherever she is now, is beaming and nodding her head at the project’s blossoming.
Fareforward traveler.

Elegy to Sierra

What is the measure of a life well-lived,
How to say what gave her pleasure
Or to the watching world gave meaning?
Was it trees and plants that grew
Remembering the gardener that was you
Or laughter tinkling in the air,
Echoes of you who once was there?
Or drums and bells the living made
To honor you once you were gone,
The chants and songs the community sang
To carry you on your way, to tend the flames,
To transform our body into diamond dust,
Then launch your swan upon the Silver Sea
Such tenderness and love,
I couldn`t wish more for me!

Richards Druitt

Here is an album of images to share together as we remember dear Sierra.

Chainsaw Training Workshop at Las Casas de la Selva

Hurricane Maria in 2017 killed many of the Pine trees (Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis, known as Caribbean Pitch Pine or Honduras Pine) on the 600m elevation ridge-tops of Las Casas, and they are dead but standing.

In March 2020, the team from Puerto Rico Hardwoods closed the wood-yard in Caguas and spent the day bringing down standing dead Caribbean pine trees. This wood was milled into 2x4s for a special project. This was a great opportunity for training the crew in directional felling, using ropes, and learning about harvesting trees, and all the safety procedures. The crew were trained by, led by Andrés Rúa, and Rafael Pérez.

Pinus caribaea was planted at Las Casas de la Selva in the early 80s, favored by the PR Department of Natural Resources, and chosen for its fast growth, and ability to grow on virtually all soil types. The soil on the ridges are clay and the land was heavily grazed for many years. Now 35 years later, in 2020, we can see that the trees did grow fast and well, but unfortunately there would never be a market for the wood in Puerto Rico. 3t and Andrés have been trying for many years to create a market for the pine, have used it on several projects, but its sale has been limited.

About this pine: Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis was introduced into Puerto Rico in 1959, and was introduced intentionally to be used for erosion control, and as windbreaks. The heartwood is a golden yellow to brown, with highly defined straight grain, and a light yellow sapwood. Straight resinous canals streak the wood. The wood exudes a large amount of resin, making it less suitable for joinery and flooring, and limiting its value as a timber. Nevertheless, it is used for a wide range of purposes, including construction, light flooring, joinery, inexpensive furniture, boxes, pallets, turnery, toys and, has in other countries been used after treatment with preservatives, for poles, posts, and railway sleepers.

Group pic on logs: Back, L-R: Ariza Torres, Omar Garcia, Abraham A. Sanchez Cuprill,
Front, L-R: Rafael Pérez Antonetti, 3t Vakil, and Xavier Arroyo.

Pepperdine University at Las Casas de la Selva

Pepperdine University students spent 8 days with us in February, and for several days we cleared the homestead of vines, worked on trails, and created new nursery areas. Alex Johnson was the team leader, and Alex has already volunteered twice before at the project. Thank you team, we really value our collaboration with Pepperdine. Maria Cristina, from Cayey, cooked wholesome and hearty meals, and Ana Pagan from Patillas, held a wonderful salsa dance class.

We were joined for the final days of this team by Professor of Architecture, Seth Wachtel, who was planning a trip for students from the University of San Francisco in May 2020.

As February drew to a close, there were whispers of a virus spreading rapidly over the globe. On March 12, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. On March 15 a severe lockdown was ordered by the Governor of Puerto Rico, as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), became a household name! The January 2020 earthquakes had already caused the cancellation of several of our regular university teams for 2020, but with the lockdowns, all our teams cancelled; our brief time with the Pepperdine students was so valuable.

Dog Training Team at Las Casas de la Selva

Debbie Jacobs has been organizing travel adventures for nearly three decades, including leading group adventures to Puerto Rico. She has been bringing various groups to Las Casas de la Selva since the 90s.

She has always been foremost a dog trainer, and finally about four years ago realized her dream of organizing dog-training groups to visit Puerto Rico. She is excited to be combining her passion for traveling and sharing unique environments with people, along with her enthusiasm for helping pet owners discover the most effective and humane ways to communicate with their dogs. The team also travels to animal sanctuaries and shelters, where they train the staff and animals, helping with the stray dog situation that is ongoing.

Part of Debbie’s ten-day Puerto Rico trips includes several days at Las Casas. During the day, she offers the latest animal training techniques and shares them with her team. Getting people to visit Las Casas is always a good thing, and gives us the chance to spread the word about the work we do in sustainable forestry. We also invite our friends who have dogs that need training. It is actually the case that the humans need as much training as the animals! By showing people how to have a positive and trusting relationship with their pets, they support dogs in doing what they can do so well – become our best friends and treasured members of our families. Having our own dogs makes Las Casas a favorite place for Debbie’s team, and Negralora, Nogal, and Yagrumo get to learn best behaviors as a result of this positive reinforcement training. Kailash, our 15 year old cat is also trained in various ways, (yes, you can teach an old cat new tricks!), as well as some of the chickens!

Debbie’s trip is a perfect combination of community service, dog training skills, education and practice, and flat-out fun. Delicious meals were cooked by 3t and a up-lifting salsa dance class by Yari Soler.

Professionals in the industry she has trained with include Jean Donaldson (, and Bob Bailey. Debbie is also currently studying to become a Registered Behavior Technician, an international certification that indicates she is qualified to work with Board Certified Behavior Analysts in implementing behavior modification plans with people.

Debbie Jacobs, CPDT-KA, CAP2, is the author of ‘A Guide To Living With & Training A Fearful Dog’ and ‘Does My Dog Need Prozac?’

Video on Dog Trainers’ Collaborative Las Casas de la Selva Puerto Rico

More info on the dog training:

Jovany Sculable, volunteer

Since 1985, Greenheart International has been a catalyst for global transformation through the facilitation of cultural exchange programs, eco-fair trade purchasing, personal development opportunities, volunteer service initiatives, and environmental advocacy projects. Greenheart International is endorsed by the City of Chicago for the promotion of international education, environmental awareness, and citizen diplomacy, with an ardent commitment to sustainable practices, a steadfast dedication to expanding worldviews, and an abiding passion for planetary change. Greenheart International sends teenagers abroad to learn new things and immerse themselves into different cultures.

Jovany, 19, from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, won a scholarship from Greenheart,and volunteered at Las Casas de la Selva in January 2020 for 10 days. He was a great volunteer and jumped enthusiastically into all tasks that he was given, including pruning in the gardens, and helping to host a visiting team.

In his own words:

Video of a Greenheart team at Las Casas de la Selva:

2019 Work on new Tree Nursery

Hurricane Maria devastated the Las Casas de la Selva homestead including two tree nurseries. 3t lost nearly 2,000 tree seedlings and saplings in the hurricane, a soul-destroying loss of many years work. The creation of a new nursery was the great healing of 2019. Many collaborations with volunteer groups, and a collaborative plant project were terminated as the project struggled to survive 9 months without electricity, and a compromised homestead and road. In the hours before the hurricane, as she watched internet images of Maria heading to the island, 3t saved a few dozen critically endangered endemic trees, and dug out some that had been freshly planted out, and secured them in the workshop, along with everything else necessary to save. The workshop had survived Hugo and Georges. It survived the eye of Category 4/5 Maria. Sadly much else was lost. See short movie below.

Images from 2019 volunteer work on the new Tree Nursery. Thank you everyone who has helped us with this project. Special thanks to architect David Henebry, who directed volunteers, designed and built the hurricane-proof roof, Chris D. Miller for all his labor, Greenheart Travel who helped weed-cloth the ground, and gravel it, & Globalworks, who helped mix and pour the concrete floor. As well, to the individual volunteers who helped, we salute you all.

We are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and we need help. Please let us know if you can help by making a donation towards our work in the rainforest. Thank you!

2019 Americorps Groups at Las Casas de la Selva

Thank you to Americorps for sending volunteer groups to help us with tasks. Mostly we were working on the forest roads and trails, but also on some construction and a workshop clear-out. We really appreciate these teams and thank each of you who were part of the 2019 teams!

2019 Volunteer Groups

A huge thank you to all our 2019 volunteer groups! We could not have done it without you!

Thank you everyone! Have a great start to 2020!

Thank you to all our 2019 volunteers!!

To all our 2019 volunteers. It takes a lot to keep a project alive. We salute you for all your help. Thank you!!
All volunteers worked on a variety of tasks including grass-cutting, ditch digging and erosion control all over the homestead, main-drive roadwork, forest roads & trails; pruning back the overgrowth; maintenance of the wastewater garden; compost piles; clearing out the workshop; homestead maintenance; nursery establishment, concretework, & tree-planting.

David Henebry, architect working in PR for a year, came to Las Casas de la Selva, for a day, volunteering on a garden digging project with an AmeriCorps youth team. From there, David went on to completely fund, and re-build several critical areas of the homestead facility, coming in on Sundays. In between digging holes, carrying tree saplings, planting, and digging, David also completely rebuilt the roof of El Teatro, and installed half of a new floor. He repaired a broken roof on a casita, made a new cement floor for outside the Casablanca bathroom, and built a hurricane-proof lean-to next to the workshop, for the new, improved tree nursery. We are very, very grateful. 3t lost nearly 1,500 tree seedlings and saplings in the hurricane, a devastating loss of many years’ work, so the energy into a new nursery this year was a great healing of 2019.

Chris Miller, spent three months living at Las Casas de la Selva, and he worked closely with David on all the tasks, as well has putting in heroic efforts to keep the grass cut on the homestead, which had become a huge task after the hurricane with the homestead becoming a sunny location after being a shady grove for many years as the trees grew. We are so grateful to everyone who has helped us here this year: Chris Miller, David Henebry, Sarah Dean, Alex Johnson, Dayne Taylor, George Locascio & Miho Connelly, Anna & Fred, Anna & Joy Brown, Bill Davidowski, Bruce Mobley, David Anderson, Daniel Mobley, Tial Neal, Yogani Govender and friends, Gordon Weber, Noel Moore, Clara King, Katie Tsui, Robert Lane, Harry Zubik, Jess Tabac, Shari Dee, Sönke Scheel (Muller), and Elizabeth Whitehouse.

We could not have done it without you all. We appreciate your love and support very much! Thanks also to James Beezley for a generous donation in 2019. Blessings to all as we move into the New Year 2020. Please keep in touch and drop us a note!

Happy Birthday to Frank H Wadsworth 104 years old today! Nov 2019

To our favorite forester, Frank, who turns 104 today. Thank you for all the inspiration you have given to us over many years now. Happy Birthday!!

No Escape: The Reality of Climate Change Here & Now, Oct 2019

Landmark meeting on the impacts of climate change, and the urgent need for action

On October 30, 2019, at the Luis Muñoz Marín Foundation (FLMM), a symposium brought together prominent scientists, environmental managers, educators and citizens concerned about the best way to adapt to the reality of climate change. The symposium entitled “No Escape: The reality of climate change here and now” featured 20 presentations, one 1-hour expert panel discussion, and 13 exhibitors of various topics focused on climate change, including environmental health, agriculture, forestry, management of urban areas, the built environment, socio-economic impacts, resilience, coastal erosion, research in areas such as El Yunque National Forest, climate change awareness education, and risk mitigation processes, among others. The event included international participants, such as Sir Ghillean Prance, former director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the United Kingdom, as well as a large number of prominent speakers from Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the United States. Response to this free public event was remarkable, and seats were fully booked out a week before the event. Over 300 people attended the event throughout the day that lasted from 8am to 6pm. For a full list of presenters, presentation abstracts, and symposium schedule, please consult the conference program, shown below.

Introductions were provided by the symposium’s three organizers: Ms. Thrity J. Vakil, FLS, director of the Institute of Ecotechnics, US, director of Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry and Rainforest Enrichment Project, Patillas, PR, and President of Puerto Rico Hardwoods, Mr. Christian Torres Santana, Director of the Parque Doña Inés, and Ms. Cristina Cabrera, an environmental consultant and project manager.

See 3t’s photos of the day!

Morning Session:



Afternoon Session:


  1. “No Escape: The Reality Of Climate Change Here & Now”
    Intros by Christian Tores Santana, Cristina Cabrera, & Thrity Vakil.
    Speakers 8.40am to 10.40am : Mr. Ernesto Luis Diaz, Dr. Grizelle Gonzalez, Minuette Rodriguez Harrison, Hon. John Clendenin, Ms. Nancy Woodfield Pascoe, Dr. Frank Wadsworth
  1. “No Escape: the Reality Of Climate Change Here & Now”
    Speakers 11am to 12.30pm: Dr. Chris Nytch, Dr. William Gould, Sir Ghillean Prance.
  2. “No Escape: The Reality Of Climate Change Here & Now”
    Panel Discussion 1.30 to 2.30pm: Sir Ghillean Prance, Dr. Elvira Cuevas, Mr. Ernesto Diaz,
    Hon. Larry Seilhamer, Fernando Lloveras.
    Speakers 2.30 to 5.30pm: Dr Ariel Lugo, Dr. Katia Avilés-Vázquez, Dr. Pablo Méndez Lázaro, Agro. Christian Torres Santana, Brenda Torres, Dr. Jess K. Zimmerman, Katherine González, Edgardo González, Dr. Fernando Abruña.
  3. “No Escape: the Reality Of Climate Change Here & Now”
    Speaker 5.30 to 6.00pm: John Englander.
    6.00pm Wrap-ups and Thanks.


Many thanks to the following individuals that greatly contributed to the development, organization and contributed to the success of this symposium: Karen Babis (Logo design); Zoraida Enid Silva, Carmen Rodríguez, Ernesto Díaz of the DNER (graphic design and printing); Roland Pesch; Sandy Dean; Ashley Cameron Epting; John Allen, Dr. Mark Nelson, Deborah Parrish Snyder, Marie Harding, William Dempster (Institute of Ecothecnics); Amanda Morales; Steve Maldonado, Juan Orengo, Linda Hernández, Ricardo Zeno, Elizabeth Coriano, Julio Quirós, Ana Rocío Díaz, Zuleika Vallenilla, and Lolita López (Luis Muñoz Marín Foundation); Magha García; Pedro Fabeerllé; María Cristina Nieves; Lucilla Fuller Marvel; Tom Marvel; Andrés Rúa; Isabel Colorado and Dr. Frank Wadsworth; Dr. Lilliam Rodríguez Laboy and Aniel Bio (Puerto Rico Department of Education); Dr. Sheila Ward; Melissa Vega Zayas, Yazmin Solla, and the Habitat Program staff (Para La Naturaleza); Eve Holupchinski (USDA Caribbean Climate Hub); María Concepción (Oxfam America); Alberto Mercado (TNC Puerto Rico); Pam Allenstein (American Public Garden Association); Jafet Vélez (USFWS), Dr. Gilberto Guevara, Lupe Vázquez, and Dr. Frances Zenón (PR Science, Technology & Research Trust); Cecilia Cordero Muñoz (FEMA); Dr. Jess Zimmerman (UPR Río Piedras); Karen Marrero (Office of the VP of Senate of PR); and to the Youth Climate Strike Group for their inspiration towards addressing climate change.


Para La Naturaleza, The Nature Conservancy – Puerto Rico, Oxfam America, Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust, El Verde Field Station, Institute of Tropical Ecosystem Studies, University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras, Puerto Rico Hardwoods, and various private donors mentioned above.

Event Facebook page

2018 Volunteers: Thank You!

Thrity and Andrés extend a huge, huge THANK YOU to all the volunteers who have come to Las Casas de la Selva in 2018, and given love, labor, (mental, emotional, & physical support) to us and the project after the Hurricanes (Irma and Maria) that dealt us a devastating setback in 2017. We salute you all, please stay in touch and come back again. This sustainable forestry project only exists because people want it to.

Very, very special thanks to architect David Henebry, who personally funded and worked on several reconstruction projects at the end of 2018 and into 2019. These included: A casita roof mended; a new roof on el teatro; the lean-to structure that the new tree nursery will inhabit when finished; a cement porch floor. Trees were also planted, amongst many other tasks! Thank you so much David for all your love and support of this project. Thanks also to friends Robert Lane, Lance Strawn, & Harry Zubik who contributed funds and labor.

Special Volunteer: To mention one volunteer may seem unfair, but Chris D. Miller was an ACE volunteer for three months, 2018-2019.

George Locascio has been coming to Las Casas for several years, and we give huge thanks for all his labor in chainsaw work this last year!

In December 2017 and January 2018, Kira Kranzler, Matthew Mullinix, contributed critical funds and materials to re-roof the kitchen, as well as love and labor only a few months after Hurricane Maria, when the homestead was barely useable, and there was no electricity. Huge thanks and hugs for loving the place, the gardens, and the animals. Thanks also to Sally Richardson, & to Dan Kranzler for funding the kitchen roof!

Special mention: 3t’s two high school friends, Jane Linkson Clark and Joanne Patience Finch made social media contact with 3t several years ago…and in 2018 both were agreed that their kids needed an experience that might change their lives. Whether it did, or not, remains to be seen, (and perhaps they might testify to something, years down the line, but 3t had a wonderful and productive time with them, as solo volunteers who also got to partake in service-work with several large volunteer groups, like Horizons For Youth from Chicago, and Americorps Teams, carrying out hard labor to clear and prune the homestead. Ciaran Clark, 17 years old, and Florence Finch, 16 years old, volunteered at Las Casas de la Selva for one month with 3t as their guardian.

THANK YOU….ALL OF YOU! Please keep coming back.

Images by 3t Vakil, 2018

Movie of Hurricane Maria at Las Casas de la Selva

Thank you to all our 2018 volunteer teams!

Thank you to all the teams of volunteers in 2018 that came to help us in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
We are eternally grateful for all your hard labor on the homestead and in the forest! We salute you. Please keep coming back and forging strong relationships with this forest, and to keep the mission of sustainable forestry going.

Americorps Youth 2018 at Las Casas de la Selva

Since June 2018 many Americorps youth in Puerto Rico, chose to come to Las Casas on their volunteer days. The tasks at the project, led by 3t, are always hard labor, but fun. The mountain breeze, along with the cold mountain water, and terrific views, make it a hard-to-resist location!

These wonderful teams have helped with all manner of tasks including clearing debris, gardening, digging out landslides, digging drainage ditches, bridge repair, general construction, and helping with main drive maintenance. We are really appreciative of the service ethic that these folks have demonstrated.

Americorps youth (who are here in Puerto Rico working with FEMA on hurricane relief), continue to volunteer at Las Casas in 2019. Thank you very much for your service!

All images by 3t Vakil

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all our Friends and Family around the planet. Giving thanks at the end of 2018 to all the wonderful folks who have supported this project after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, with financial aid, to hard on-the-ground labor. We continue to clean-up and rebuild. We look forward to 2019 and the beginning of many new collaborations and projects. Please let us know if you can help in any way.

2018 is over!


The Institute of Ecotechnics USA 501(c)(3) Not-for-profit Organization (No. 74-3177755), is currently taking in donations earmarked for the Las Casas de la Selva Rainforest Project severely damaged by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Please put a note with your donation that it is for Las Casas. Thank you for your contribution.
100% of your donation goes to the project.

Check: Tax Deductible Donations payable to: Institute of Ecotechnics.

Mail to: 1 Bluebird Ct., Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87508 USA

Bank Transfer information for USA Tax Deductible Donations

Institute of Ecotechnics (I.E.), USA

Bank of America

Address of Bank: 1234 St. Michaels’s Drive, Santa Fe, NM 87508

ABA #026009593

I.E. Account #439003497362

International Wire Transfers to our Merrill Lynch account:

ABA 026009593

[International Banks use SWIFT-BIC: BOFAUS3N]

Bank of America, N.A.

100 West 33rd Street

New York, NY 10001

To Primary Acct Name: Merrill Lynch

Acct #: 6550113516

For final credit to Institute of Ecotechnics ML account number 456-02174

Donations in Stock can be sent to our Merrill Lynch account:

Use the above Merrill Lynch account information and this DTC#: 5198

For UK registered charity Nº 1081259, mail to: 24 Old Gloucester Street, London WC1N 3AL England

Thank you, we really appreciate your support!

Movie of Hurricane Maria at Las Casas de la Selva

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm on the morning of 20th September, 2017, bringing winds at about 160 mph to an island that dodged the worst of Hurricane Irma’s destructive power only a few weeks previous. Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry and Rainforest Enrichment Project established 35 years ago, by the Institute of Ecotechnics in Puerto Rico, lay directly in her path.

Project Directors, Thrity (3t) Vakil and Andrés Rúa took shelter in the concrete bunker on the homestead, to emerge into a completely altered reality, a transformed world.

This is 3t’s visual story of the impact of Hurricane Maria on the rainforest project in Patillas, on the land known as Las Casas de la Selva, south east Puerto Rico.

Edited by Corinna MacNeice

Use headphones to appreciate the soundscape by Andrés Rúa.

Keep checking in on our Facebook page for current updates:

City Winery Hurricane Recovery Brigade at Las Casas, January 2018

In January 2018, Camille Collazo and her team at Visit Rico organized donations to projects in Puerto Rico and a spectacular event help to several farms in Puerto Rico. Teams of 30 people from City Winery descended on these places for a day and helped with debris removal from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Las Casas was chosen as a site to build a stage to have a gourmet dining and music experience. We milled our own fallen pine, and in one day a stage was built. The day was an energetic movement that words cannot describe, bringing much needed help to devastated areas at the Las Casas homestead.

The Visit Rico initiative received support from the Foundation for Puerto Rico, the Segarra Boerman Foundation, the non-profit organization Slow Food, PRxPR and private entities such as Para La Naturaleza and Microjuris. There were fundraisers with Cape Cod Farm, Gramercy Tavern with Chef Juan José, El Boricuá Fund in Minnesota and Crazy Legs from Rock Steady for Life. In addition, Farmer’s Markets outside of Puerto Rico expressed their solidarity with the cause.

Institute of Ecotechnics directors, Marie Harding & Freddy Dempster visited and were a huge help in all areas. Freddy set-up an LED light-system in all the communal areas of the homestead, and life has been upgraded immensely. Las Casas de la Selva, in the mountains will not get electricity for many more months.

Here is a lively video of the story by Forbes Magazine:

And a great write-up:

Thank you to all the volunteers who really worked hard, in the pouring rain, to set-up the stage area and footings, including: 3t, Andrés, Andrés Rúa Senior, Ramon Rúa, Axel Rúa, Kai Griebenow, Vanessa Acevedo, and Juanita Gonzalez.

Images: 3t Vakil.
Group photo by Marie Harding.


Las Casas de la Selva receives the prestigious 2017 Energy Globe National Award for Puerto Rico in recognition for it’s sustainable forestry program testing the efficacy of line-planting enrichment in the wet tropical forest to achieve both economic return and protection of natural biological resources.

Puerto Rico National Award Ceremony held on the 18th December, where The Honorary Consul of Austria, August Schreiner, presented the certificate. Thanks to all our friends who came to share in this special event. Onwards to Tehran in the New Year for the Global award ceremony!

Las Casas de la Selva project was initiated in 1983 by the Institute of Ecotechnics (IE), an international non-profit organization pioneering innovative, healthy land-use in rainforest, grassland, desert, city and ocean coral reef biomes. IE was also key participant in the design and construction of Biosphere 2, the world’s largest laboratory for the study global ecology ever built. Tropic Ventures, LLC, manages the 1000 acre project in Puerto Rico, developing a unique approach to enrichment of secondary rainforests called “line-planting”, planting valuable tree species in cleared lines or blocks to simulate forest openings when tall trees fall within current forest vegetation. This offers critical soil erosion protection, preserves biodiversity, and facilitates forest development.

“Their work exemplifies our search for new approaches that can meet human economic needs while not only preserving but upgrading the local ecology. This is especially important in Puerto Rico, which a century ago had lost almost all its original forest but now has the fastest re-growth of secondary forest of any country in the world. The project has also demonstrated the value of rescuing old urban trees currently being cut down and literally sent to landfills.”

Energy Globe Awards Committee

The project has helped catalyze Puerto Rico’s governmental, university, and popular appreciation of the value of their native forest. Developing techniques that produce sustainable timber in the critical biome of the world’s rainforests is essential to maintain its amazingly rich biodiversity. It demonstrates there are viable alternatives to clear-cutting and short-term exploitation of the rainforest. Puerto Rico which currently faces so much economic distress is just awakening to the potential of sustainable use of forestry resources.

In September 2017, untold thousands of trees fell down, or broke, during Category 4 Hurricane Maria, blocking roads and damaging buildings and homes. The immediate challenge in Puerto Rico is to help in the relief of the impact of the hurricane, and create an industry from the resources that are currently lying on the ground rather than discard them as waste. The essence is to lower the cost of hurricane recovery, saving on equipment, transport and landfill costs, and to create an enterprise using this timber. This will result in the creation of jobs and demonstrate the value of this currently largely under utilized natural resource.

Thank you to the Earthwatch Institute for the volunteers who have helped us to gather data in our forest over almost two decades, and to Globalworks, and all the university and teen groups that have helped in all manner of activities to bring Las Casas to this moment in time. We salute you all.

Thank you to Energy Globe for this prestigious recognition of our work in forestry on the island of Puerto Rico!

3t and Andres have been invited to the 4 day award ceremony in Tehran, Iran in January 2018, which includes the Energy Globe World Award nomination and ceremony. Please help us to get there. Resources are truly stretched after Hurricane Maria!