Managing the Forests of Remote and Pristine Tierra del Fuego A US Lumber Company Has Proposed a Controversial 'Environmentally Correct' Plan to Harvest Ancient Lenga Trees

By Jack Epstein, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 23, 1995 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Managing the Forests of Remote and Pristine Tierra del Fuego A US Lumber Company Has Proposed a Controversial 'Environmentally Correct' Plan to Harvest Ancient Lenga Trees


Jack Epstein, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


In an ancient grove at the bottom of the world, an American lumber company and a group of Chilean scientists are attempting a risky experiment: to see whether "sustainable development" will work in one of the few relatively unaltered ecosytems left in the world. The Trillium Corporation, a forestry and real estate firm based in Washington State, wants to harvest a pristine 10,000-year-old temperate rain forest in remote Tierra del Fuego, a wind-swept island only 800 miles from Antarctica. Chileans, meanwhile, are hotly debating the future of their country's fast-disappearing forests. In the past decade, scores of paper-pulp and lumber companies from the United States, Japan, and Europe have descended on southern Chile, clear-cutting thousands of acres of native old-growth trees they can no longer cut down at home and replacing them with imported species such as pine and eucalyptus. Amid this debate, Trillium has hired a commission of 100 of Chile's leading scientists to produce a $9-million environmental-impact plan that would permit the harvest of 350,000 acres of lenga forests with limited damage to the ecosystem. Commission members hope this rare project - Latin America's first major collaboration between scientists and business executives - will become a model for responsible corporate behavior on how the region manages its last native forests. Commission member Claudio Donoso, Chile's best-known forest ecologist, explains why some of the planet's most unique trees have to be cut. "The best solution to avoid their destruction is proper management," Mr. Donoso says. "And if we don't work with these people, there won't be any {trees} left." Experts say that southern Chile and the US Pacific Northwest are the only two temperate rain forests with large tracts of relatively unaltered ecosystems remaining in the world. With its snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and deep bays, Tierra del Fuego is an ecological trove of 140 species of lichen, 65 species of fish, 30 types of insects, and 171 species of birds, as well as such exotic wildlife as the endangered red fox, flightless rhea, condor, and albatross. Trillium's interest, however, is in the island's potential cash cow: a reddish-brown hardwood from the lenga tree, (Nothofagus Pumilio) a type of beech. The company plans to spend $200 million to export finished wood, furniture, doorjambs, and window sills to the US, Europe, and Asia. To be sure, Trillium expects to profit by an international trend to buy "politically correct" wood. Company executives say that each product will carry a green seal of approval to show they were harvested in an ecological manner. Chilean government officials are well aware of the extent of forest destruction in recent years, as well as the fact that that lumber and paper industries have played a major role in Chile's economic miracle. These firms now represent the nation's second-largest export, after copper, earning more than $1.6 billion in 1994. In just the first four months of 1995, Chilean forestry exports rose about 60 percent, to $521 million, compared with the same period last year. Trillium executives, on the other hand, have pledged to refrain from clear-cutting or replacing the lenga with imported trees. They pledge to implement a permanent monitoring system and halt the venture if the lenga stops regenerating. Instead of clear-cutting, Trillium workers will shelter cut, whereby 30 percent of the forest is maintained in age, type, and distribution to allow the lenga to naturally reseed the ground. Commission research shows that the tree grows faster when selective cutting allows more sun into the groves. "I know it can work," says Mary Kalin Arroyo, a botany professor at the University of Chile in Santiago and coordinator of the Trillium science commission. "After all, we don't want to go down in history as the destroyers of these forests. There are a lot of careers on the line.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Managing the Forests of Remote and Pristine Tierra del Fuego A US Lumber Company Has Proposed a Controversial 'Environmentally Correct' Plan to Harvest Ancient Lenga Trees
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?