What is the Ralmar Ecoforestry Corporation? Just a group of people who think it is important do something about tropical deforestation and are taking action. We plant trees on land that has been abused and degraded by years of cattle ranching in Costa Rica – land that is no longer able to produce enough to make it worth the effort. By planting these trees and managing their growth and development we establish stands of species indigenous to the area, and these stands help the land to recover while providing a home for wildlife, protecting watersheds and helping to clean the air, among other benefits.
But we aim to do more than that: We want to help in the struggle to slow the rate of deforestation and eventually end it. To do this we carefully plant and manage the native trees to form timber plantations that will one day yield wood that is a raw material urgently needed In Costa Rica. This wood can be used instead of wood from natural forests. The plantations are managed in a sustainable manner to produce timber while maximizing the environmental and other benefits and still turning a good profit.
Though the profit motive is not the primary reason we plant trees, it is very important that it be obvious to the folks of Costa Rica that trees make money for the people who plant them; that is the best way to convince landowners there that maybe they should plant trees, too. This may be the most important objective of the corporation. If enough people plant their own timber plantations and manage them well they will produce a lot of timber that presently must be taken from natural forests, and then the forests can be left standing instead of being destroyed for their wood. And it doesn’t hurt that the people who invest in this corporation and finance its small but important operation will one day see a good return on their investment.
Read on to learn more about this novel project.
The Ralmar Ecoforestry Corporation (Corporación Ecoforestal Ralmar, S.A., its legal Spanish name) is a Costa Rican corporation formed in 1996 for the purpose of establishing and maintaining timber plantations of native tree species in Costa Rica. It seeks to aid in the battle against deforestation in Costa Rica through establishing sustainable, low‑environmental‑impact, native-species timber plantations while maximizing all of the environmental benefits. The corporation also emphasizes social, economic and scientific benefits that such plantations can produce.
The corporation buys degraded farm land, consisting of old, unproductive cattle pasture in marginal areas (areas not suitable for cattle or crops, usually because of excessive slope). Tree species that are native to Costa Rica are planted. These timber plantations are carefully managed to rehabilitate the land and make it productive once again and at the same time, minimize any negative environmental impact. The trees will then be harvested with equal care, the wood sold on the national market, and the area harvested will be immediately replanted so that timber, and all other benefits, will be produced perpetually.
A timber plantation of native species managed in such a manner produces a number of benefits:
· The land is rehabilitated and conserved. The degradation of the land of the plantation is reversed and it regains much of its fertility and ecological viability.
· Some pressure is removed from natural forests. Since only native species are planted the wood produced provides an alternative source for the woods actually used in Costa Rica. That means trees of natural forests do not have to be cut down to provide the lumber the plantations produce.
· Local landowners can be convinced by this demonstration of proper use and management of marginal lands. An incentive to follow suit is provided by proving that it is practical and profitable to establish and maintain a sustainable, low‑impact timber plantation on such lands. The corporation's plantations could cause a ripple effect as other landowners start planting trees for their own plantations.
· Nonproductive land is made productive. The corporation establishes its plantations on marginal lands that have been degraded by exploitative land use, usually cattle ranching, and returns them to a high level of productivity. And the production level will be maintained indefinitely (sustainable production). Good news for the Costa Rican economy.
· Wildlife habitat is increased. The stands of carefully managed native trees provide a home for a wider variety of wildlife than degraded pasture land ever could.
· Watershed is protected. The plantations will help protect watersheds, thus improving water quality and increasing the amount of water available during the dry season.
· Carbon/oxygen ratio of the atmosphere is improved. The more trees that are planted, the more carbon is trapped and oxygen produced by them, giving us cleaner air.
· It preserves the genetic diversity of native tree species. Since the plantations contain a variety of native species, many of which are becoming increasingly scarce, they help to preserve a larger gene pool for those species.
· It creates a future source of native woods. Certain woods may become, and, indeed, some have already become, difficult to find. The plantations will produce many of these hard to find woods.
· Scientific data is collected. Knowledge of propagation, growth, behavior and management of the native tree species planted is scarce in Costa Rica and the corporation can make an important contribution in this area.
· It creates jobs for local people. Jobs can be hard to find in the Costa Rican countryside and the corporation's plantations provide work.
Through establishing and maintaining these plantations, the Ralmar Ecoforestry Corporation is addressing underlying causes of deforestation in Costa Rica and yielding many other benefits for the environment and people of Costa Rica.
Questions or Comments?
Get in touch with Eric Nelson, REC Treasurer at:
4537 SE 2nd Place, Ocala, Florida 34471
Ken Gallatin, REC Forester at: