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USDA Forest Service supports economic dev’t, forest conservation project

Recognizing the economic development opportunity represented by the sustainable recovery of timber in a region increasingly prone to hurricanes, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service (USFS) awarded a grant to the GreenWood organization to provide training opportunities and market access to Puerto Rican workers.

William Gould, director of theUSDA Caribbean Climate Hub, said the Wood Innovations Program projects in Puerto Rico are especially important as they are fostering a new vision of Puerto Rico’s forests by valuing the importance of ecological services that living trees provide while recognizing the economic and cultural value of wood resources and the potential to link creativity, design, and utility to add value to the islands’ wood resources.

“Hurricane María was an awakening of the abundance of wood resources in Puerto Rico. The experience highlighted the need for planning and capacity to salvage wood resources in a beneficial way,” said Gould.

“The objective of the Wood Innovations program is to support capacity building to use wood resources to good benefit,” he said. “As the planet warms we expect hurricanes to increase in intensity, and we can benefit from a holistic approach to forest management that provides benefits of biodiversity conservation, water management, recreation, education, and wood resources.”

Program grants are an important step in that direction, he noted.

This year the grant was awarded to GreenWood, a nonprofit organization that has promoted the development of wood products since 1993 with a focus on sustainable forest management, a vision that it brought to Puerto Rico after Hurricane María.

The two-year project, managed with the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, is called “Sustainable Forest Enterprise: Linking forest resources, artisans, and wood markets with Artisan EcoTours and improved wood-processing capacity in Puerto Rico.”

The project will team local woodworkers with internationally known counterparts for a teaching experience where participants from on- and off- the island learn practical skills from the experts.

Additionally, participants will visit the source of our wood — the forests — to gain inspiration for product design and to connect forest management with wood products and innovation, the agency stated.

The Wood Innovations Program began in 2015 and offers grants to stimulate innovation in wood products and wood energy markets. National focus areas include mass timber, renewable wood energy, and technological development that supports fuel reduction and sustainable forest management.

The USDA Caribbean Climate Hub is a collaborator in projects funded by the Wood Innovation Grant in Puerto Rico because the projects aim to increase economic resilience for rural communities, landowners and farmers, and to improve climate adaptation and carbon sequestration, Gould said.

“Growing trees and sequestering carbon in high value, long-lived wood products can be a key solution to reducing carbon emissions globally,” said Gould. “We have a great opportunity to increase our capacity to respond to climate challenges, while at the same time providing economic opportunity and promoting the ecological and cultural richness of Puerto Rico.” 

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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