Our Trip to Eye on the Rainforest by Ellie Murphy (22)

by Chris Burke
Jan 26

On Friday, January 14th, we visited the organization Eye on the Rainforest- a sustainable forestry and rainforest enrichment project- at Las Casas de la Selva. This site is located in the southern mountains next to the Carite State Forest. During this visit, we spoke with Thrity Vakil and Andrés Rúa Gonzalez: the two leads of the onsite management team. Our conversation centered around one of their main initiatives called the Trees for Timber Project. The Trees for Timber project seeks to explore the potential for harvesting trees in the rainforest without harming the environment. Mahogany wood –a valuable timber –is omnipresent in Puerto Rican rainforests. This is a valuable resource that if harvested correctly and sustainably, could create a lucrative industry and more job opportunities. However, this resource is underutilized and not well known among most locals. Thrity and Andrés aim to educate the wider public about the abundance of mahogany wood in the rainforests and discuss methods to harvest it sustainably. They have previously hosted groups to provide a space where people can enjoy spending time in nature and learn about the natural wonders of the rainforest. Their organization’s model values collaborating with other institutes and individuals. They host volunteers from all over the world who have the opportunity to learn about gardening, forestry work, and other practices related to sustainability. These individuals play avital role in the organization as they do maintenance work on the site. The Trees for Timber Project has also collaborated with the United States Forest Service Firefighters for a chain-sawing workshop for harvesting trees. This demonstrates how the organization works to create partnerships with various sectors, including those on the mainland. In the future, Thrity hopes to expand its worksite to host larger conferences and educational camps to disseminate more knowledge about the potential of using mahogany as a resource in the Puerto Rican rainforests. For more work about Eye on the Rainforest, see the link here.