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.

April 2016 Mahoe (Hibiscus elatus) available


F65.$96.60SOLD One side (F2)few pin holes

All dimensions are in inches and all slabs are slightly larger than stated. All pieces have been planed on both sides.
Shipping is not included. We accept secure payments through Paypal.

Please include in your email to 3t@eyeontherainforest. org
1) Your shipping address.
2) Your shipping preference for a quote: Priority (8-12 days) or Standard Mail (14-18 days) .

Mahoe is the timber tree currently being harvested from 26 – 30yr old plantations at Las Casas de la Selva. Mahoe or Hibiscus elatus, (also known as “Blue Mahoe” for the characteristic coloration of its wood after milling), is a tree native to Jamaica and Cuba. A volunteer species, characteristic of open disturbed habitats and also found, due to its shade tolerance, as an understory tree in secondary forests, mahoe grows to 25 m tall and upwards of 100 cm DBH (KIMBER, 1970). It was recognized as a potentially important species for plantation and forest enrichment after a survey by Jamaican foresters (LONG, 1963 cited in KIMBER, 1970). It is an excellent wood with a rich variety of colors and attractive grain, but surprisingly, very little mahoe is currently being produced anywhere else. The first plantings in Puerto Rico were in the 1940s and it has been also been introduced to other Caribbean islands and Hawaii for evaluation. It has become naturalized in Mexico, Peru, Brazil, southern Florida and the West Indies (CHUDNOFF, 1982 cited in WEAVER, FRANCIS, n.d.)


Mahoe lumber (wood from the mill that requires no further processing) is $20.00 per board foot. Mahoe turning and carving blanks are $26.00 per board foot. Wood for sale may include some sapwood, and all ends are anchor-sealed. Mahoe can vary greatly in color from tree to tree, the blue tone does not tend to endure for many years. The wood transforms over time to shades of browns, purples, greys, and bluey-greens.


Fiesta del Arbol November 2015

This event was dedicated to forester Dr. Frank Wadsworth, and Andrés presented a plaque to celebrate his 100th birthday.

We had a table to show off some of our latest products, cheese boards, chopping boards, tostoneras, and samples of Puertorican hardwoods.

Students from University of PR – Department of Fine Art

In April this ebullient group of students from the Department of Fine Arts, University of Puerto Rico, arrived on a day trip to find out more about the forest plantations at Las Casas de la Selva, and to see the timber operation; the sawmill, drying shed, and workshop. Everyone was wowed by our wood collection, that we inherited from Jose Mari Mutt, and have been adding to. Eyes opened wide at the beauty of these different and relatively unknown hardwoods that Puerto Rico has. Many discussions ensued about sustainable use of forest resources, especially wood, and later all left smiling, having bought some of our wood to create their latest projects. We look forward to seeing the results soon.

Symposium and Exhibition of Forest Products at IITF, 6th December 2014


L-R: Luis Soto, (Land Authority Director) Carmen Guerrero, (Secretary of DNR), Connie Carpenter, Magaly Figueroa, (USDA State & Private Forestry), Andrés Rúa, 3t Vakil, (Tropic Ventures and Nuestra Madera), Magha Garcia, (Director Pachamama Organic Farm), Sheila Ward, (Mahogany for the Future), Edgardo Gonzalez (Landscape Conservation Center).

75 years of Forestry!

International Institute of Tropical Forestry celebrated its 75th year anniversary and a wonderful event at the Fundacion Luis Munoz Marin (FLMM) gave everyone a chance to meet up and connect over the whole days symposium, followed by a wonderful and lively reception in the evening. 21st May 2014
See more great images of this event here. Pix by 3t and Andrés

Tropic Ventures was honored to be mentioned in the recently published 2102 IITF Accomplishments. See PDF here.

Gracious thanks to FLMM, and IITF.

Consejo Asesor para el Desarrollo Agro-forestal, May 6th, 2014

Another historic meeting for CADA, this time at Las Casas de la Selva, sustainable forestry project in the steep mountains of Patillas.

CADA, comprises of individuals brought together by a strong commitment to stimulate and create the sustainable management of all forest resources on the island of Puerto Rico. Founded in 2013 by Andrés and 3t.


Participants NameAgency or group
Andrés Rúa GonzálezTropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry
Thrity VakilTropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry
Magaly Figueroa (Vía teléfono)USDA US Forest Service
Arnaldo AstacioDepartamento de Agricultura de Puerto Rico
Alexis Laurent Dragoni CebolleroConsultor Fundación Aireko
Christina CabreraDepartamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales de PR
Enrique SantiagoDepartamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales de PR
Jess ZimmermanUPR Rio Piedras
Franklin RománServicio de Extensión Agrícola
Jimena ForeroUPR Rio Piedras
Rosamaría QuilesDepartamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales de PR
Tomas TorresFundación Aireko
Orlando GómezPaddle Sur
Francisco AliceaMunicipio de Arroyo
Elizabeth RodriguezVoluntaria
Milagros Solís OcasioPridco
Hector RodriguezPridco
Evelyn MeloPridco
Omar GarciaPaddle Sur
Enrique C. Colon BurgosAutoridad de Energía Eléctrica


See images from the CADA meeting at Cyber Café, Caguas, 4th March 2014
See images from the CADA meeting at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, 30th August 2013.
See images from the meeting of The Forest Products Assessment group, at Cayey University, the day the group formally became CADA, 6th May 2013
See images from the meeting of The Forest Products Assessment group at International Institute of Tropical Forestry, March 18th 2013.
See images from the FPA Field meeting at Las Casas de a Selva, 8th August, 2012
See images from the FPA Symposium at the Department of Natural Resources, Rio Piedras, 11th April, 2012

Consejo Asesor para el Desarrollo Agro-forestal 4th March 2014

Meeting at Cyber Café, Caguas, 4th March 2014

NombreAgencia o grupo
Andrés Rúa GonzálezTropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry
Thrity VakilTropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry
Magaly FigueroaUSDA US Forest Service
Arnaldo AstacioDepartamento de Agricultura de Puerto Rico
Fernando ArroyoUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Christina CabreraDepartamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales de PR
Enrique SantiagoDepartamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales de PR
Lisette FasCafiesencia
Franklin RománServicio de Extensión Agrícola
Mariano RobledoBamboo Puerto Rico
Maria BenedettiBotanicultura
Daniel CabanBamboo Puerto Rico
Sheila WardMahogany for the future
Félix Aponte GonzálezDepartamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales de PR
Enrique C. Colon BurgosAutoridad de Energía Eléctrica

Images by 3t Vakil, 2014

Ready, willing, and able.

Erin Dahl, (who first came here two years ago with a team from University of Miami), Christopher Sanchez, and Danielle Ungermann all participated in the January harvest of mahoe trees from around the homestead. Andres, chainsawyer, and 3t, felling buddy, were happy to have the help of these three ready, willing, and able apprentices, and together, everyone trained and learned something in the essential art of directional felling, using cuts, wedges, ropes, and a come-along (a small portable winch usually consisting of a cable attached to a hand-operated ratchet).Gentle gasps of astonishment were heard as 65 feet tall trees fell, and fortunately, they all fell exactly where Andres designated. The team have been busy clearing the slash (the small twigs and branches), and depositing it back into the forest for nutrients and erosion control. Thank you Erin, Chris, and Danielle, we have really appreciated your stay with us.

Collecting Ausubo seedlings

Collecting seedlings sounds like an easy task, but carrying full tree bags up and down forest slopes back to the homestead is demanding physical labor.
Our current Earthwatch Team assisted with this task on New Years Eve, and in one morning we collected 110 Ausubo (Manilkara bidentata) seedlings.

Ausubo (Manilkara bidentata), also known a balata, is a large evergreen forest tree that was probably the most important timber tree of Puerto Rico. It grows best in Puerto Rico on alluvial plain where it may reach the age of 400 years. Ausubo is extremely tolerant of shade. The strong and attractive wood makes it highly valued commercially an it is widely used in the tropics for many woo products. The tree is often tapped for its milky latex the source of balata gum. Although growth is slow, ausubo is planted for shade and timber.

Ausubo is one of the strongest and most attractive commercial woods in Puerto Rico. It is widely used in the tropics for railway sleepers, bridging, heavy construction, furniture, turnery, flooring, violin bows, and billiard cues. Its strength, high wear resistance, and durability qualify the timber for use in textile and pulpmill equipment. Its excellent steam-bending properties make it suitable for boat frames and other bent work.

The heartwood is light red when cut and turns to dark reddish brown when dry. The sapwood is whitish to pale brown. The wood is very hard, strong, fine textured, and heavy, with a specific gravity of 0.85. The wood rates excellent for boring, fair for planing, and poor for turning. It is difficult to air season and shows severe checking and warp if dried too fast. The wood finishes very well and resembles mahogany.

This info is by Peter Weaver, one of our favorite foresters, and good friend. For more detailed info on this tree and its properties see:

Pines and orchids -14th September 2013

L-R: Tania Hernandez Caraballo,  3t,  Jim Ackerman, Escarlin Reyes Genao, Carmen-Iris Rodriguez, and Joel Salcedo Mejias (Pic by Andrés R♪a)

Prof. Jim Ackerman brought his students to Las Casas de la Selva to make observations on exotic orchids and pines. Our friend Carmen Iris, (second from right), studied with Jim 26 years ago. Always a pleasure to spend time with Jim and get the downloads on his current studies and forest insights.

Oh, and the puppy is the new addition to Carmen Iris and Alberto Rodriguez’ household.  An adorable pedigree German Shepherd, 2 months old, called Ninja,

Talking about wood

L-R: Mark Schofield (Ex-Editor of Fine Woodworking Magazine); Yolanda Flores (Department of Agriculture); Augusto Carvajal (Biologist); Magaly Figueroa (USDA Forest Service, IITF); Andrés Rúa (Tropic Ventures Research & Education Foundation); 3t Vakil (Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry Project); Connie Carpenter (US State & private Forestry, IITF); Christina Cabrera (Departmento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales, Ayudante Especial, Oficina del Secretario); Aileen Amador (Departamento de Transportación y Obras Públicas).

CADA meeting at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, 30th August 2013.
Consejo Asesor para el Desarrollo Agroforestal de Puerto Rico

“Working towards the development of Sustainable Forestry in Puerto Rico, and the research and creation of a forest products industry and relevant markets.”

See for more info on this new council and its mission, founded in May 2013 by Andrés Rúa and 3t Vakil.

All images by 3t Vakil

May 6th 2013, meeting at Cayey University.

The Forest Products Assessment group formally became C.A.D.A. (Consejo Asesor para el Desarrolo Agro-forestal de Puerto Rico).

Back row: Andrés Rua (TVREF), Enrique Santiago Irrizary (DRNA), Augusto Carvajal (UPR Cayey), Mark Schofield (former editor of Fine Woodworking Magazine), Gerardo Hernandez (Management Official for Toro Negro State Forest), Franklin Roman (UPR Agriculture Extension Officer and Agronomist), 3t Vakil (TVREF)
Front: Jimena Forero Montanez (UPR Phd student), Christina Cabrera (Special Assistant to the Secretary, DRNA), Rosamaria Quiles (DRNA)