Ross Weller

My presentation was on the subject of tropic logging. I was particularly interested in the concept of reduced impact logging techniques (as compared to conventional technique) affecting sustainability. I assigned and presented two papers, Why Poor Logging Practices Still Persist in the Tropics (Putz et al, 2000) and Retaining Forest Biomass By Reducing Logging Damage (Pinard & Putz, 1996), in order give my classmates some insight on the issue of tropical logging and environmental impact, as well as on the economic pressures involved. Pinard & Putz presented evidence confirming the claim that reduced impact logging produces residual forests that are better carbon sinks than conventionally logged forests. The reduced impact forests were also shown to be less damaged by logging and to have greater potential as future logging sites. The other paper addressed, in turn, seven different explanations for continued application of conventional logging methods in the face of studies such as Pinard & Putz.

It is important to note that both these paper dealt with conservationist treatment of tropical forests. Tropical logging is not presented as inherently wrong or bad, and the preservationist argument that logging should cease altogether is not made. Many third-world nations depend on the revenue from tropical logging to develop their burgeoning economies. The economic problems with the current situation (foreign companies contracting conventional harvesting of tropical forest without regard for sustainability) are that little of the resulting revenue stays in the national and local economies, and that long term (maximum) profits are being ignored in favor of immediate profits.

The benefactors of reduced impact logging are typically local land owners and loggers. Greater sustainability leads to greater (though less immediate) profit and employment stability. Unfortunately, as the Poor Logging Practices notes, decisions concerning logging techniques and schedules are made by foreign corporations that have no long-term investment in the local environment and economy, or by mill owners responding to the demand of foreign corporations and markets. Organizations interested in conservation of the tropical forests should dedicate their resources to the education of loggers and landowners concerning reduced impact logging and its benefits at the local level. National politicians should be shown that sustainable resources lead to sustainable growth. Finally, economic pressure and, if possible, sanctions should be applied to companies that practice or promote unsustainable logging techniques that completely destroy forest areas.

The fact that residual forests in reduced impact logging sites are substantially better carbon sinks than conventionally might provide the ultimate political and economic incentive for increased application. With a system of carbon credits, companies that put millions of tons of carbon into the air each year through fossil fuel use could be made to balance their emissions through the funding of reduced impact logging. However, practiced without control, this option could lead to increased logging rates and fossil fuel consumption (meanwhile provide environmentally-detrimental companies and practices with a phoney “Green” cover).

Why Poor Logging Practices Still Persist in the Tropics (Putz et al, 2000)

Retaining Forest Biomass By Reducing Logging Damage (Pinard & Putz, 1996)

Ecological Basis for Sustainable Development in Tropical Forests (Hartshorn, 1995)

Tropical Forest Management and Conservation of Biodiversity: An Overview (Putz et al, 2001)

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last updated 1/25/06