Honduras Forest Conservation Project Wins First Yale ISTF Innovation Prize

Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles and events posted prior to July 1, 2020 refer to the School's name at that time.

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From left, ISTF co-chairs Matthew Bare and Desiree Lopes; Peter Pinchot, one of the panel judges; prize winners Yadira Molina Cruz and Scott Landis; and Tim Northrop, Director of Development and Alumni Relations at F&ES.
An international project that promotes forest conservation by linking sustainable producers in Honduras with high-value markets received the first ever International Society of Tropical Foresters (ISTF) Forest Finance Innovation Prize during the Yale Student Chapter’s annual meeting held last weekend at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
Founded two decades ago, the “Green Broker Network” combines technical training and practical research with savvy marketing and equitable financial relationships to create environmental, social, and economic benefits for forest communities and the recipients of their wood products. Receiving the Forest Finance Innovation Prize were the partners in the project, the Honduras nonprofit Fundación Madera Verdeand the U.S. nonprofit GreenWood.
The $5,000 first place prize was sponsored by the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation. Travel expenses for the four finalists to take part in the judged competition were supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
“Our environment is full of risks and challenges, and change is slow,” said Yadira Molina Cruz of the Fundación Madera Verde. “But this recognition from the international forestry community strengthens our confidence and renews our commitment to a collaborative, diversified approach to development.”
The partners say they are prepared to expand the project to other parts of Honduras and throughout the Neotropic ecozone.
Keeping at it, day after day and year after year, forging partnerships along the way... that’s what makes innovation real.
— Scott Landis
“Innovation is a lot more than a ‘lightbulb’ moment,” said Scott Landis, president of GreenWood. “It usually has to do with lateral thinking, applying one type of knowledge in a different context. Having an innovative idea is cool, but it’s only the first step.
“Keeping at it, day after day and year after year, forging partnerships along the way… that’s what makes innovation real.”
The prize was awarded on the final day of the conference, “Forests as Capital,” which was hosted by the Yale chapter of the ISTF from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1.
While the student-run event attracted researchers and academics from across the U.S. and Canada, a goal of this year’s conference was to generate more involvement by forestry professionals from tropical regions worldwide, said Desirée Lopes M.E.M. ’15 M.B.A. ’15, a co-chair of the Yale chapter of the ITSF.
Among those who attended the Yale conference were practitioners from Latin America, Africa and Indonesia — including the four finalists for the Forest Finance Innovation Prize.
“As students, it was an extremely valuable opportunity be able to interact with these people,” Lopes said. “A lot of students have an interest in tropical forest management, so it was enriching to have had all their experience brought to Yale. Having these professionals on campus introduced such different backgrounds to the event.”
The panel of judges for the Forest Finance Innovation Prize included Peter Pinchot, Senior Fellow at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation and president of EcoMadera; Heather Wright, Program Officer for Environmental Conservation at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; Shawn Sabin, representative of the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation; Roberto Waack, CEO of Amata Forest Company in Brazil; F&ES Professor Brad Gentry; and Michael Jenkins, President and CEO of Forest Trends.
“I was delighted to serve as a judge of the inaugural ISTF Forest Finance Innovation Prize,” Shawn Sabin said. “The diversity of competitors from around the world was inspiring, and partnerships like those embodied in the winning team of Greenwood and Fundacion Madre Verde, demonstrate that it is possible to finance sustainable forestry in the tropics through innovative business practices and new markets.
“The Andrew Sabin Family Foundation was pleased to provide funding for the Prize and help highlight these important environmental initiatives.”
Other finalists included:
  • A project by the Chimpanzee Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservation Trust in Uganda that is testing the effectiveness of payment for ecosystem services to enhance conservation efforts in western Uganda’s Abertine Rift.
  • A proposal by the Pilot Projects Design Collective (U.S. and Guatemala) that will guarantee the use of sustainably sourced wood for the restoration of the Brooklyn Bridge while generating long-term benefits for the community of Uaxactún, Guatemala.
  • A project by the Panama-based agroforestry company, Planting Empowerment, that increases financial flows to locally controlled forestry interests through a land-lease model and polyculture plantations.
– Kevin Dennehy    kevin.dennehy@yale.edu    203 436-4842