Timber is one of the most important forest products and, technically, it is possible to manage sustainable extraction without compromising environmental values. In reality, however, there are very few practical examples of such management around the world. Integrating timber and conservation management is one of the great challenges for tropical forest protection on a large scale. PFB is addressing this complex and controversial issue on the RBCMA.

Practically all the Belizean forests have been logged, and the eastern RBCMA is no exception. Indeed, Hill Bank has been a center of intensive timber extraction for over 150 years. Also, as in the rest of the country, the timber resource is now depleted. The question, then, is how to manage timber in a way that allows for income yet also provides for rehabilitation of forest quality while retaining the full array of biodiversity and other environmental goods and services. While an ideal regime is not readily discerned, PfB continues to optimize its approaches used in its forest operations towards this end. This program included experiments, trials at an operational scale, and rigorous monitoring of impacts in its initial phases. PfB continues to monitor these impacts in its on-going operations.

These operations are conducted in the RBCMA’s Timber Extraction Zone which covers 36% of the RBCMA and buffers the fully protected core that constitutes the bulk of the forest management unit.  PfB’s mission is to be a responsible steward of the forest it manages and follows the principles of sustainable forestry,  The management regime encourages natural regeneration of the forest, maintenance of soil productivity, water quality, biodiversity, ecosystems and their services, and protection of high conservation value forests (HCVF).  The ultimate goal is to maintain ecological integrity while achieving social and economic returns.

PfB’s forest management regime is subjected to annual external audit following the principles and criteria set by the Forest Stewardship Council. This acts as an assurance to PfB, its many supporters, and the purchasers of its timber, that the RBCMA is a responsibly managed forest which safeguards the environmental, social and economic benefits of the area.

Through the Timber Programme, PFB is helping resuscitate an industry that literally created the nation of Belize and sustained it over much of its life. Once a practical and optimal approach has been developed, the intent is to promote its adoption beyond the RBCMA boundaries to help conserve forest in the wider landscape.

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