Tropical Forestry Initiative: Progress and Setbacks


The first interview in Environmental Review (Volume 1 Number 1 1994) was with Carl Leopold about the Tropical Forestry Initiative, an effort to grow native hardwoods in a reforestation project in Costa Rica. In 1994 TFI had made a good start: it had aquired 60 hectares of a played out farm pasture on a steep hillside, it had started up a nursery of native trees for replanting, and had planted the first year’s seedlings.

Over the intervening years they have worked with local farmers to demonstrate the value of planting native trees, they have increased the size of their demonstration plot to 140 hectares (345 acres). They use American students as interns as well as a small staff to collect basic information on the growth of the trees and recovery of the ecosystem, looking at soils, insects, birds and other animals that use the forest.

Recently TFI’s field station burned to the ground, destroying all of the caretaker family’s possessions and the equipment and living areas for the interns. Fortunately no one was hurt and the nursery was undamaged. We caught up with Carl in Ithaca, New York and talked about progress and setbacks at TFI's station.

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