Izabal Wood Co.


A Minimalist Footprint

Related to the over-exploitation of a few select precious species, such as mahogany, is the devastation wrought to the forest due to the dispersed distribution of many of these species. In remote locations, particularly in the Amazon, logging companies must cut long hauling roads into the jungle in order to reach species that are spread thinly. From primary roads, trails are cut from which logs are hauled by tractor or skidder. In the process, thousands of other trees are felled or damaged. Trans-Amazonian freeways are notorious for enabling informal roadside settlements and people move in and clear patches of forest for dwellings and farm plots. Roads opened for timber extraction allow similar activities, often unregulated. Indeed, estimates places logging in the Amazon as responsible for some 6% to 12% of the destruction of forests. More significantly, the majority of deforestation caused by slash-and-burn farming is facilitated by the building of logging roads.¹ Likewise, a large portion of harvested Brazil’s tropical timber is legally sanctioned. Much is cut by rogue logging crews that enter into indigenous reserves and protected parks. High-value species, including ipê, mahogany, and virola, are removed. A mature ipê tree, for example, typically occurs only once in an area measuring 300,000 to 1,000,000 square feet. Policy makers estimate that for such dispersed species, an acre of forest yields an average of 76 board feet of FEQ (First Export Quality) ipê lumber due to losses in milling and stringent quality and length standards. While the prime cut is shipped for decking in European and North American markets, mills often do not have orders for the remaining low-quality lumber. Often, customers are unaware of the tremendous footprint to extract FEQ boards. The city of Long Beach in California, for example, learned that its order of 53,500 board feet of ipê lumber would contribute to the logging of some 257 acres. Consequently, Long Beach modified its procurement policy to mandate only ipê from certified tropical hardwood projects.  The collateral damage was deemed unjustifiable. Even species once considered abundant have seen their populations dwindle. Garapa (Carapa megistocarpa) has seen a 50% population reduction in Ecuador. Even under-utilized species can be threatened if harvesting practices aren’t radically modified.

IWC is able to produce a board foot with a far smaller footprint. This is because of its use of lesser-known species that can be harvested on the same acreage. It’s also due to the fact that our company harvests certain species that are far more prevalent in the forests managed. Many are pioneer species that grow first after forests are disturbed, such as San Juan (Vochysia guatemalensis). These regenerate quickly and naturally form single-species stands. Using a basket of species, we can extract sustainably low amounts of any one species. IWC procures timber from disturbed secondary forests where precious species have been largely extracted before coming under our management. Our management plans allow smaller trees that would otherwise be cut young to mature and protects mature seeding trees to ensure the propagation of the species.

Last, IWC does not build new logging roads. Our forests are within several kilometers of major freeways and already have roads to them. This ensures that rogue crews will not gain access due to the company’s activities. Taken together, our company has a minimal footprint when compared to peers that penetrate deep into undisturbed forest.

¹ Keating, Tim. “An Estimate of Tropical Rainforest Acres Impacted for a Board Foot of Imported Ipê.” 6th in the Rainforest Relief Reports Series of Occasional Papers, July 1998.