Forest Service hosts Peruvian officials to learn natural resource management
Peruvian natural resource managers have questions about how to protect their country’s forests, and they came to Summit County for answers.
A U.S. Forest Service division called International Programs, which promotes sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation in foreign countries, brought top-level Peruvian officials for an educational tour that started Monday in Washington D.C. and ends Friday in Denver.
In between, the group spent Thursday, Aug. 27, in Summit learning from local and regional foresters.
“They’re under a lot of pressure to develop parts of the Amazon,” said Bill Jackson, Dillon Ranger District district ranger.
The White River National Forest and others around the U.S. face similar challenges as the Peruvians in trying to balance political and industry pressures with resource protection.
Jackson said he hoped the delegation could take home examples from Colorado about how to both manage land for multiple purposes and partner with other government agencies, private companies, nonprofits and local communities to achieve those goals.
Peru has the ninth largest area of forest in the world and the second largest share of the Amazon rainforest after Brazil. The Peruvian Amazon region’s biodiversity and water supplies are threatened by deforestation.
Plus, illegal logging and mining, watershed management and conversion of forests to agriculture challenge the country’s infant natural resources agencies.
In 2009, a U.S-Peru free trade agreement stipulated that Peru must curtail illegal logging, which undercuts the U.S. timber sector, and sustainably manage natural resources, said Erin Carey, who worked with the Forest Service International Programs for the last five years.
The U.S. set up a permanent office in Peru to help the country come into compliance with the agreement through passing natural resource laws and establishing the Peru’s forest service, which was launched last October.
Carey called the Peru initiative an opportunity to share expertise, expose U.S. workers to new issues and ideas, engage in collaboration research and promote diplomacy through environmental cooperation. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funds the initiative.
Holly Ferrette, who oversees the USAID environment program in Peru, said its goals are to help Peru preserve its biodiversity, reduce and adapt to impacts of climate change, draft environmental laws and regulations and consult with indigenous organizations.
“We’re really just trying to help them do right by their environment,” she said, and promote collaborations and partnerships in the culture.
Gustavo Suárez de Freitas Calmet, director of the forest conservation program within Peru’s ministry of the environment, said Peru is working to improve its coordination between people and organizations in various positions of authority.
A PARTNERSHIP MODEL
As the group visited Sapphire Point, the Frisco Peninsula and the Climax Molybdenum mine, the theme of the day was partnerships.
Jackson told the delegation gathered at Sapphire Point that the U.S. Forest Service is the largest single water provider — 20 percent of the country’s water comes from national forests — and the agency protects water supplies locally through a partnership with Denver Water.
Denver Water watershed scientist Don Kennedy said the utility became involved in cutting trees around its infrastructure about 20 years ago after debris and sediment from a forest fire damaged one of its reservoirs. Then, large fires became more common.
In 2010, the Forest Service and Denver Water created a $33 million agreement called Forests to Faucets.
Under the five-year agreement, the two parties decided on priority areas for cutting 38,000 acres of trees in hopes of preventing wildfires damage to water supply systems, and they split the cost of the tree removal.
White River National Forest timber management officer Cary Green said the Forest Service wanted to tackle similar zones of concern in mountain valleys where people live and work but has been losing funding.
Jackson praised the agreement and said, “I haven’t found a company or anyone willing to pay for clean air yet.”
The Forest Service partners in similar ways with energy companies, ski areas and environmental organizations, which helps increase the agency’s capacity to do critical work and strengthens community relationships and engagement, said Claire Harper, a Forest Service regional partnership coordinator based in Golden.
Fabiola Muñoz Dodero, director of the Peruvian forest and wildlife service, asked about the logistics of receiving funds and creating plans with so many entities, and Harper explained the basics of the agency’s methods through an interpreter.
“It’s really messy,” she said.
Dodero asked if the extra time and effort was valuable, and Susan Alden Weingardt, another Forest Service regional partnership coordinator, said absolutely.
“The projects end up being much better and much better supported,” she said. “We can’t operate without that collaboration.”
In both countries, natural resource managers struggle with how to reclaim areas damaged by mining and other types of development.
A Peruvian regional president, akin to a state governor, pointed to a mountain near Frisco and asked Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs what he would do if an extraction company wanted to drill for oil under the mountain.
“The people I represent want me to protect the environment,” Gibbs said, and they are mindful of drilling hazard like oil spills and fires.
He said a love of the outdoors is part of the state’s identity and told the governor not every Coloradan lives in the mountains, but the mountains live in every Coloradan. Local communities though must each weigh the benefits and harms of extraction.
“From politician to politician, you understand,” he said.
In Peru, where many officials view forests as valuable only for wood, Dodero said she struggles with communicating other values of forests. She wants to engage more people through volunteering and donating to conservation efforts and encourage people keep forests in their hearts, the way Gibbs said Coloradans think of mountains, she said.
The U.S. isn’t immune to those concerns, and Weingardt said local foresters worry about the disconnect between young people and nature.
Jackson, who has worked in natural resource management in Colombia, Ecuador and Honduras, said it’s always interesting to host foreign environmental professionals to share ideas.
“We’re all trying to do the same thing, the right thing, and as much as we can share ideas the better off we all are.”
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