Tropical Forests Find Inspiration, Challenges

Tropical Forests Find Inspiration, Challenges

The 20th annual conference of the Yale Chapter of International Society of Tropical Foresters concluded Saturday with an inspiring message from a Honduran community leader: Even in a land of drugs, violence, and deforestation, sustainable forests and livelihoods are possible.

The Fundacion Madera Verde of Honduras and the Greenwood “green broker network” won the first ever ISTF innovation prize, sponsored by the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Accepting the prize, Yadira Molina de Cruz spoke of the troubles in her home country, but also of the hope that she finds in the work of their project, which connects forest dwelling communities with value added wood processing and buyer markets. Judge panel coordinator Peter Pinchot, grandson of the founder of the Yale School of Forestry, presented the winner, and noted that with many excellent projects, it was a difficult choice for the judges.

For three days, conference speakers and participants shared reflections on new and traditional financing mechanisms for tropical forest conservation. Leaders of international donor organizations such as the government of Norway and the United Nations spoke of the importance of green accounting and strong institutions for national development plans. Carbon project developers and private investors from groups such as Terra Global Capital, Floresta, the Ministry of Environment of Brazil, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Union of Concerned Scientists described the limited scope of current private investment, and the yawning gap to compete with large commodity investment that drives most of today’s deforestation. In a special session on mitigation banking, the Conservation Strategies Fund and local groups in Peru and Colombia showcased new techniques that can leverage large sums of private capital for forest restoration in biodiversity hotspots. In the final session, forestland projects outlined strategies to facilitate private investment, mitigate risk, and create value for standing forests.

All in all, the conference proved a valuable experience for more than 100 participants from the tropical forest conservation community and the FES student body. Speakers came from across the country, Europe, and Latin America to share experiences in conservation finance. Several alumni from Washington D.C. and further afield were in attendance and used the opportunity to learn about new activities among the Yale community. F&ES students benefitted from hearing experiences from the front lines of tropical forests and conservation, as well as creating valuable connections for future work and research. The ISTF looks to continue strong into its next decade as one of Yale F&ES’s most active student interest groups, and welcomes students and faculty to share in its conversation of tropical conservation and sustainable development.

Photo Above:  ISTF co-chairs Matthew Bare and Desiree Lopes with prize winners Yadira Molina and Scott Landis, presented by Peter Pinchot and Tim Northrop.