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Focus on Forests (text version)

The sustainable timber programme

The word ‘sustainable’ is used a lot by economists, environmentalists, politicians and geographers. When you have worked through this site and some of the activities, you should have a good idea of what is sustainable and what is not.

Mahogany produces a beautiful wood which is very popular for furniture. This – and the fact it is difficult to grow in plantations – makes it the most valuable tree in the Belize forests where it has been harvested for the last 150 years.

On the RBCMA there are over 250 tree species. Over 60 of these are useful as timber and could be sold on the international market. The aim of the project is to show how timber can be harvested commercially, and almost continuously, but with minimum damage to the environment and wildlife. In fact, the project aims to improve the ‘quality’ of the forest. (It is not in itself a commercial operation as any profits will be go towards further conservation work.) Because the life cycle of trees is so long and the ecology of the rainforest is so complex, experiments have to be long term. Most commercial logging companies would not be willing to do it.

Not all of the RBMCA is being logged. The land donated by WLT is being kept as a Totally Protected Area and some other parts of the forest are not suitable for logging. Only 18% of the area is being used for timber extraction (felling and transporting trees) starting on land donated by Coca-Cola. Some logging had already recently taken place on this land. For this area, a strict plan has been worked out to make sure that environmental damage is limited but that enough good quality timber can be harvested every year to make a profit.

map showing sub-section of compartment with all the tree species.

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This site is funded by DFID and has been produced by the World Land Trust.