How do these partnerships work?
The Cities4Forests Partner Forest program is based on cities engaging with specific forest areas and communities who will supply the partner city with a product or service at a fair price in order to further their forest conservation business model. Partner forest candidates are vetted by Cities4Forests through research, referrals, proven successes, and existing NGO partners.
Once the seven cities have been selected, a co-design workshop with each will help frame project parameters, develop an RFP and customize contract documents. This process will ensure competitive delivery of forest products (wood and other services) in accordance with procurement policy. Forest candidates will bid on well-aligned projects for which they meet the requirements, and the final selection will be based on cost and other criteria defined in RFP.
Each Partner Forest program will differ in context and scope. Programs will be co-designed and developed with city officials, Cities4Forests, and representatives from the forest community to address the needs, priorities and challenges of both partnering entities. Partner Forest candidates will each have well-established enterprises and/or supply chain relationships with a track record of socially-oriented tropical conservation work and a vested interest in the forest locale. This includes a commitment to social equity and contributing to local livelihoods in a holistic and equitable way (see our
Gender and Equity Guide). Forest community stakeholders and/or representatives from partnering NGOs will be involved in establishing priorities, needs and capacities, and the points of contact for the forest partners.
In the longer term, the broader Partner Forest program is intended to be self-perpetuating as cities embrace the value of city-forest connections and new Partner Forest opportunities. We expect a variety of financing options to emerge for new programs though public, private and third sector partnerships.
Why are community-managed forests important?
Many community-managed forests are strongholds for a huge variety of wildlife, including jaguars, pumas, scarlet macaws, and howler monkeys, as well as millions of migratory birds. Community forest management is one of the best ways to conserve intact forests and protect their biodiversity, climate and social benefits.
The forest is an important source of income, food, medicine, and cultural value to the communities. To maintain their way of life and to fulfill their conservation obligations under their agreement with their national governments, communities protect the forest against illegal settlements, cattle ranchers, and fires that outsiders set while trying to clear the forest. Timber harvesting in these forests often follows strict FSC certification procedures and a management plan created specifically for this sensitive forest area.
What threats does the forest face? How would these programs help protect it?
Forest fires, illegal logging and hunting, and looting of archaeological sites threaten the forest and the people who live there. In addition, climate change is making forest fires more frequent and harder to control. The biggest threat, however, is cattle ranching. Cattle ranchers from outside the reserve want to clear the forest for pasture. They are often well-funded and even armed.
The people of comm depend on the forest for their livelihoods, and they have a big stake in keeping out cattle and putting out fires. Under a long-term plan (and with careful monitoring by outside groups like the Wildlife Conservation Society) the community harvests trees from a different portion of the forest each year. Rather than clearing the forest, the community practices low-impact timber harvesting, using small-scale equipment to remove just a few trees from each area they harvest. They replant thousands of seedlings in harvest areas and on temporary roads. Once an area has been selectively harvested it is often left untouched for 40 years.
These activities provide employment to individual community members and support community resources like medical facilities and schools. In the case of Uaxactún, if too many trees are cut down or outsiders begin to move in, by law the community loses its right to live in and benefit from the forest. That means the community has a big stake in making sure everyone follows the rules, but they can't protect the forest alone. A few hundred community members and a handful of guards have to keep watch over an area the size of all of New York City.
The Partner Forest programs would provide vital support to forest communities and local authorities in their fight to protect the world’s forests.
Doesn't cutting down even a few trees harm wildlife?
Extensive research by the Wildlife Conservation Society has shown that the limited logging practiced by Uaxactún and other communities in the Multiple-Use Zone of the Maya Biosphere Reserve has very little effect on wildlife populations. Researchers there actually found that there are more species of birds and butterflies in the harvest areas than in other areas, because selectively removing a few trees provides a more diverse range of habitat types—small clearings, patches of light, and a more varied canopy height.
Larger animals like jaguars may move away from areas during human activity but return soon afterward. Wildlife Conservation Society researchers monitor the jaguar population in Uaxactún through motion-sensing cameras that take pictures of the cats as they walk, play, and hunt. They have found that the population remains healthy in the Uaxactún forest.
Funds from the Partner Forest programs could support further research on the effects of timber harvesting in community-managed forests. To add to the research that has already been carried out there, we hope to attract researchers interested in establishing long-term studies that would generate information that the forest communities could use to adapt their management over time.
Most timber harvesting in the tropics is not carried out with the level of care practiced in places such as Uaxactún. In these other places there is often very little regulation, no long-term plan, and no research to assess impacts. Only a fully transparent model with ample opportunity for participation and investigation can guarantee that we are procuring wood in a way that supports forest protection.
Why use wood? Why not use plastic lumber or a wood composite?
Although other materials have been and may be used, wood is unique in its environmental, aesthetic, and engineering qualities. Wood feels special under the feet, to the touch and the eye. Wood is also one of the planet's few truly renewable building materials, and as trees grow they sequester carbon, produce oxygen, and provide animal habitat. If wood is harvested responsibly, it can bring all of these benefits to our biosphere while providing a beautiful and durable material.
In addition, researchers have raised questions about the durability and environmental impact of plastic lumber. Plastic lumber may not last long in harsh outdoor settings, and in many cases manufacturing it puts more carbon in the atmosphere than using wood does.
Why use tropical hardwood? Why not use domestic hardwood?
Many tropical hardwoods have exceptional strength and resistance to wear and decay. They can last for more than 30 years untreated in harsh outdoor and high-traffic environments.
While a domestic hardwood could be an option, most domestic hardwoods are not as durable or strong as tropical hardwoods. Black Locust is one domestic hardwood similar in durability and strength to tropical hardwood, and we are excited about what our friends are doing in this growing industry. But Black Locust tends not to grow as large or as straight as tropical hardwood, producing lumber that is shorter than the lengths needed for the boardwalk.
More importantly, the Partner Forest programs are conceived of as a way for cities to reach out to people living in threatened tropical forests and help maintain both their way of life and the rainforest that they are protecting for all of us. Much of the world's deforestation comes from the fact that in economic terms, rainforest land is often worth more cleared for agriculture or pasture than maintained as standing forest. The Partner Forest programs aims to break the pattern of rainforest destruction by supporting a place that has found a sustainable alternative. We see this as a model that can be repeated for many public spaces that use wood and also aim to protect the environment.
Why doesn't our city just buy wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)?
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent non-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world's forests. Primarily, the FSC provides an internationally recognized certification system that supports responsible forestry. In order to be FSC-certified, a forest manager or a timber company must comply with certain social and environmental standards.
Timber from community-managed forests may be FSC-certified, but merely buying FSC-certified wood would not create the long-term connection between cities and the source community that we hope to build.
Can the private sector support the programs?
Yes, we intend to work with cities to find appropriate roles for companies. The private sector plays an key role in city procurement, so it is important for them to be engaged in the programs. The programs are also envisioned as an opportunity for citizen engagement.
How can I learn more about the effectiveness of community forest management and conservation?
Click here for peer-reviewed academic research that gives detailed account of the effectiveness of community forest management. If you are interested in reading any of these publications in full, or contacting the authors, please let us know and we can provide additional access.