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1 July 2005 REDEFINING THE ROLE OF NATURAL RESOURCE EXTRACTION IN FOREST CONSERVATION
KEN SMITH
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Working Forests in the Neotropics: Conservation through Sustainable Management? Daniel J. Zarin, Janaki R. R. Alavalapati, Francis E. Putz, and Marianne Schmink, eds. Columbia University Press, New York, 2004. 437 pp., illus. $42.50 (ISBN 0231129076 paper).

In the recent past, one ofthe weaknesses of the international conservation movement in many forested regions of the world was the failure to recognize the widespread extraction of forest products by local communities. In addition, foresters, biologists, and social scientists rarely seemed to communicate and cooperate with one another or with the communities that occupied the forest of interest. Compounding the problem was the lack of local participation in research that was designed to understand or improve the management of these same forests.

Fortunately, the stakeholders involved in the management and conservation of forests around the world have begun to recognize the necessity of interdisciplinary and participatory research to address the complex issues behind forest use and misuse. An example of this positive change is reflected in a new book titled Working Forests in the Neotropics: Conservation through Sustainable Management? This volume, edited by a forest ecologist (Dan Zarin), a natural resource economist (Janaki Alavalapati), a botanist (Jack Putz), and an anthropologist (Marianne Schmink), was the product of an international conference held at the University of Florida in 2002, and the contents explore current ideas related to the efficacy of using forest management as a conservation tool in the diverse forests of Latin America.

As a practicing temperate forest manager with research experience in tropical and boreal biomes, I am happy to see this type of work emerge from our research community, because it is full of case studies from various locations in Central and South America. Although the focus is on lands distant from my home in rural Tennessee, the problems and challenges outlined in many of the chapters strike a chord for me and for other forest managers outside the tropics. Who has not wrestled with the regeneration of the principal commercial species, as described for La Chonta, Bolivia? Or the need for public subsidies to prop up initial efforts of community forest management, as in Quintana Roo, Mexico? Or the mess created by unregulated and unplanned timber harvests, such as those that occur throughout lowland Amazonia, Brazil?

The editors have organized this book into four sections that represent what they view as the key issues in Neotropical working forests, and the first section focuses on the use of timber extraction as a conservation tool. Included in this section are detailed descriptions of the silvicultural and logistical problems associated with planned and unplanned logging in Brazil and Bolivia. In chapter 2, Putz sounds almost confessional when he states that forest management for timber production should be part of a larger strategy for tropical forest conservation, and that wood production and forest protection are not necessarily opposites. The second section of the book consists of numerous case studies that emphasize the importance of understanding land tenure, community decisionmaking, building local markets, and myriad other social factors once typically ignored by development organizations that promote community forestry projects. Section 3 delivers a nice spoonful of reality by examining several working forests and the problems stakeholders have encountered when managing areas for multiple products. Certainly there are no cookbook recipes for the successful management of all forests, and this section draws attention to specific problems encountered when introducing forest management of varying intensities. Section 4 ties in nicely with concepts presented in previous chapters, and the authors address policy modifications that are needed to help sustainable forest management become a reality in the Neotropics.

This work should be required reading for foresters, biologists, and social scientists involved in attempts to maintain forest cover around the globe. Most of the writing is clear and concise; I plan to assign several of the chapters in an undergraduate class that examines natural resource issues in the developing world. Whether the pressure to convert comes from cattle ranchers in Brazil or suburban developers in North Carolina, many of the potential solutions to conserving forest cover are the same throughout the world. The importance of maintaining working forests in concert with biological preserves is critical, and as the authors in this volume clearly illustrate, we should all start working with one another before it is too late.

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KEN SMITH "REDEFINING THE ROLE OF NATURAL RESOURCE EXTRACTION IN FOREST CONSERVATION," BioScience 55(7), 625-626, (1 July 2005). https://doi.org/10.1641/0006-3568(2005)055[0625:RTRONR]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 July 2005
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