Sustainable resources. If you treat the resource well it will treat you well.
Our operating principles put resource first. If the forest thrives, it can provide opportunities for investors and local populations. Forests first means first, do no harm.
The basics of doing no harm include harvesting only the biological growth, prohibiting hunting (many animals act as key seed dispersers), ensuring that harvesting activities are very low impact, and limiting forest road access.
Harvesting only biological growth means we need an extensive forest, which we protect as a functioning nature reserve maintaining biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and wildlife corridors. And, because there are many species, we also need a lot of land to be able to offer commercially important volumes of forest products. In Bolivia, our land base was a little smaller than the state of Delaware in USA.
The general principle is first, do no harm.
Doing no harm includes simple practices such as forbidding non-traditional hunting, keeping roads to a minimum, using extraction processes that do not compact the forest floor and therefore allows natural regeneration to proceed, preserving seed and culturally important trees and species, and related practices. However, everything starts with knowing where the resource is located in time and space. For that, we use highly sophisticated geographical information services starting with satellite images and drilling down eventually to a 100% inventory of all standing trees greater than a certain diameter.
Understanding What’s in the Forest – How mapping and geographical information services is an integral part of best forest management practices. Contact us to download a more in-depth presentation on forest mapping.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification is an essential part of our business. Certification has two components: certifying that forest management is well designed, and certifying that manufacturing facilities can trace origin of raw material so customers know their products come from well-managed forests.
In 1997, our Yaguarete Forest investment in Paraguay became one of the first Latin American FSC-certified natural forests and chain of custody venues. Later, when we operated in Bolivia we certified 150,000 hectares of our own forest concessions (essentially a long-term timber cutting contract given out by the Bolivian government), and helped to move about 400,000 hectares of community and indigenous lands towards FSC certification. We also certified a chain-of-custody sawmill in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
Scarcity and destruction of critical hardwood forest resources pose dangers and opportunities that are not new. Although hardwoods grow worldwide, the first shortages occurred in the temperate zones rather than the tropics.
In 1664, English writer and forest expert John Evelyn identified the destruction of England’s oak forests—undergoing conversion to agriculture after being ravaged to make charcoal for iron ore production—as a key constraint on the country’s ability to grow, defend itself, maintain quality of life, and conduct commerce.
Over the next 200 years, English merchants captured the economic opportunity created by England’s deforestation by acquiring and trading hardwood resources in Asia, the American colonies, and in Central and South America.
While replanting oak could mitigate deforestation in temperate England, the opportunity and damage in the tropics is permanent. Three hundred and fifty years later a similar economic opportunity exists in select areas of South America, particularly Brazil, where forests are being converted to agriculture, grazing, as well as for charcoal for iron ore production.
Whereas ample primary tropical forest existed throughout the world in 1664, such forest is now in real danger of extinction and requires effective, sustainable asset management—the work of SFS.
It’s not just timber that can provide returns; other products and services have the potential for generating cash flow, environmental benefits, and social opportunity.
Carbon sequestration is high on many lists. SFS’ approach is that carbon sequestration is a natural side effect of treating the forest properly and harvesting only biological growth.
Eco-system services (such as water flows) are also a hot topic. Maintenance of these services is a natural side effect of having large forest holdings. As the world gets warmer and population pressures increase, large, intact forest blocks become critical repositories of biodiversity and can maintain some eco-system services.
Given the right conditions, activities that depend on minor forest products, for example, yerba mate, or acai berries or Brazil nuts can provide income to local communities thus reducing pressures on the forest and improving economic prospects of people we work with.
In some rare locations, it is possible that eco-tourism can generate enough income to preserve significant forest blocks.
In all cases, understanding the ecology, geography, markets and people and how they fit together in actual business operations is critical to success. That’s what SFS does.