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: https://youtu.be/hDwgZEA_zkg
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.
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.
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 http://bft.cirad.fr/cd/BFT_309_51-61.pdf
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 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10549810903479045
Institute of Ecotechnics IE: www.ecotechnics.edu
Puerto Rico Hardwoods Instagram: https://instagram.com/prhardwoods?igshid=gm00lyfqyzzi
Photos by: Thrity Vakil, Andres Rua, Raymesh Cintron (Drone Image), Ariza Torres.