Sustainable management of forests entails the conservation of forests while allowing the use of forest resources in ways which do not damage the forests in the long term. Many Caribbean countries including St. Lucia and Guyana have put measures in place to manage their forest resources in a sustainable manner. Such measures include passing laws, creating policies and establishing government departments to protect and manage forests.
Forest Management in St. Lucia
According to World Bank Data, forests take up 34% of the land area in St. Lucia. Much of this has been protected by declaring it a forest reserve. The Forest, Land and Water Conservation Act provides a framework for forest conservation and management. The St. Lucia Forest and Land Resources Department Strategy (2015 – 2025) outlines its approach to the sustainable management of the island’s forests. Some of the goals outlined in this strategy include:
Maintaining healthy ecosystems and thriving species: Most of the wildlife in St. Lucia is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act. The forestry department aims to conserve or restore various habitats and enhance the viability of threatened endemic species such as the St. Lucia racer, the St. Lucia Whiptail and the St. Lucia iguana. Due to the department’s conservation efforts, the population of the amazona versicolor, the island’s native parrot, has increased from about 150 in 1976 to about 2000 today. The department also aims to reduce the impact of invasive species such as the green iguana.
Ensuring sustainable flows of products that support both local economies and biodiversity conservation: The department aims to ensure that forest management practices are consistent with international standards for forest management. It works to ensure that the harvesting of timber in forested areas is well regulated.
Some forested areas are located on privately owned land. The department provides support to the land owners to ensure the protection of these areas. Such support includes the development of management plans, access to planting materials and financial incentives.
The department also supports the sustainable production of non-timber forest products. This includes sustainable charcoal production and the responsible harvesting of resin from the lansan tree. This resin is used as incense.
Protecting water supplies and soils: The forestry department is responsible for protecting the island’s 37 watersheds. This is done through various activities including protecting existing forest cover, protection of slopes and promoting and supporting tree planting in watershed areas and along riverbanks.
The forestry department also maintains forest trails and conducts forest tours in many parts of the island including Soufriere in the west, the northern range, Dennery in the east and the Quilesse range in the south.
Forest Management in Guyana
About 85% of Guyana’s land area (roughly 18.5 million hectares) is covered by forests. The vast majority of forested areas are classified as state forests and are managed by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC). The GFC is guided by the National Forest Plan. This plan aims to ensure the sustainable management of Guyana’s forests. The specific objectives of this plan are:
Deriving development benefits from the forests: There are many economic benefits derived from Guyana’s forests. Many tree species are valued for their timber such as wamara, purpleheart, wallaba and greenheart. Logging operations are highly regulated to ensure sustainability. Guyana exports logs and other timber products. Guyana also exports some non-timber forest products such as wildlife and palm heart. The GFC also hopes to see an increase in the number of forest based tourism operators.
Conserving, protecting and sustaining the forest: The GFC plans to conserve and sustain Guyana’s forests using various strategies. These include watershed management, wildlife protection and conservation, reforestation and afforestation. The are also efforts to increase the amount of forest area under protection.
Governing the forest to ensure current and future benefits: The GFC seeks to improve the governing of forests in various ways. These include strengthening and improving agencies dealing with forests, improving ease of doing forest related business and improved monitoring and evaluation.
Building human and institutional capacity for management of activities in the forest: Capacity building activities include the increased use of research to inform forest policy, workforce training and increased use of technology (such as unmanned aerial vehicles and sensors) to monitor forests.
The Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development
In 1996, the Iwokrama Centre was established to manage the Iwokrama forest, a 371,000 hectare rainforest reserve in Guyana. It has become an important organization for conservation, scientific research and ecotourism. Roughly half of the forest is preserved as wilderness.
The other half of the forest is used for a sustainable timber harvesting operation which involves selectively harvesting particular species on a 60 year cutting cycle. Only 5 or 6 trees are removed in a hectare of forest at any one time and in a manner which leaves no large gaps in the canopy.
Important scientific research is done at the Iwokrama Centre. This research includes baseline studies of the forest and research into the impact of climate change on the rainforest.
The Iwokrama Centre is also an ecotourism destination. Guests can take part in a variety of activities including birdwatching, guided walks and boat trips. Thus they observe and learn about the rainforest, its plants and animals. The video below provides more information on the Iwokrama International Centre.