The 16th Biennial Caribbean Foresters Meeting officially began today at Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, where nearly 100 representatives from 27 countries in the Caribbean, Central America, South America and the United States gathered to discuss and share perspectives on the impact of climate change within the Caribbean region, and at a broader scale. It is the largest one to date, almost doubling the amount of participants at previous meetings over the past 30 years.
This year’s theme, “Forest Management, Climate Change and Biodiversity: Advancing an understanding of Caribbean forest dynamics and creating long-term regional networks”, focuses not only on the unique challenges that forests in the region must face due to climate change, but also on the need to strengthen international networks and increase collaboration among forestry professionals.
The opening ceremony was hosted by Bautista Rojas Gómez, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of the Dominican Republic, and included remarks by local and international government officials, such as Héctor Mata (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO, Dominican Republic), Alexandria Panehal (Director of the US Agency for International Development, USAID, Dominican Republic), and Ariel Lugo (Director of the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, IITF, USDA Forest Service, Puerto Rico).
“Our Caribbean land and seascapes have met pressing demands since the last time that the Dominican Republic hosted a Caribbean Foresters Meeting, 15 years ago,” says Minister Rojas Gómez. “We have suffered the impact of significant natural disasters in the region, which is but one of the many faces of climate change, and we have become increasingly aware of how our actions directly affect our countries’ ecological integrity. The Dominican Republic feels honored to host this Meeting once again, and we are hopeful that our common collaboration goals will be met, as we look into the future.”
The Caribbean Foresters Meetings began in 1982, as part of an initiative that was originally funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and led by the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF) of the USDA Forest Service, in collaboration with other organizations of the region.
“The US Agency for International Development believes in empowering countries and their people, as they pursue their development goals,” states Alexandria Panehal, Director of USAID, Dominican Republic. “We are strongly committed to sponsoring initiatives such as the Caribbean Foresters Meetings, which provide an important platform for foresters, government officials, and researchers in the Caribbean to come up with strategies that will ultimately improve the quality-of-life for their countries’ inhabitants.”
The Meetings, which are held every two years at a different host country, bring together foresters, researchers and other government officials, who work in forest and natural resource management at the national level within the Caribbean region. Previous meetings have presented case studies, site descriptions, papers, and facilitated discussions that generate a series of conclusions and recommendations related to the meeting’s topics. This year’s theme, however, highlights the importance of establishing international networks in order to achieve common goals.
“After 30 years and 15 Caribbean Foresters Meetings, we must revisit our founding vision and address the more challenging objectives at the regional level,” says Ariel Lugo, Director of the IITF. “We are all part of an intricately interconnected network of water and land resources, where our forests play a key role. By addressing some of the issues that our forests face at a broader scale, we may come up with solutions at the local scale.”
The 2013 Caribbean Foresters Meeting is sponsored by the US Forest Service, the IITF, the US Embassy through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), and The Nature Conservancy. The Symposium is organized by the Puerto Rican Conservation Foundation.
The week-long agenda includes local and international key note speakers, a permanent plot workshop as proposed by the Latin American and Caribbean Forestry Commission (COFLAC), individual reports and presentations from country representatives, a field practice on plot installation and data collection, among other activities.###