Tropical forest management at 'On the Rocks'

UMW News Bureau

Stephen Siebert, professor of tropical forest conservation and management in The University of Montana Department of Forest Management, is the next featured speaker at Montana Western's "On the Rocks" on Monday, March 1 at 4 p.m. in Block Hall Room 311. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Indonesian rataan collectors prepare to ship a harvest downriver. Photo courtesy Stephen Siebert."]rat-transport-pullling cane from river-better[/caption] Tropical forest research and management will be the topic of conversation at the next installment of the University of Montana Western’s “On the Rocks” speaker series. Stephen Siebert, professor of tropical forest conservation and management in The University of Montana Department of Forest Management, will present on Monday, March 1 at 4 p.m. in Block Hall Room 311 on the UMW campus. Siebert’s research focuses on the ecology and management of working landscapes. He has investigated ecological effects associated with non-timber forest product collection and traditional forest farming practices in Indonesia, Philippines, Belize, Greece and Bhutan. His presentation will focus on his research in and around Lore Lindu National Park on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and on the value of incorporating traditional ecological knowledge and practice in research. Lore Lindu's creation in 1982 prohibited human inhabitance and the harvest of rattan palms within the park. Rattans are used for a wide variety of domestic household purposes and are collected for furniture manufacturing, which is a multi-billion dollar global industry. Siebert explored the effects of cane harvesting on plant survival and cane growth; effects on other forest flora and fauna; and rattan cultivation prospects. Through his work, Siebert found that controlled forest harvesting had little or no adverse effects on cane survival, growth or other flora and fauna. “The practice of harvesting in a controlled manner is clearly sustainable,” Siebert said. “They’ve been doing it for centuries.” In fact, Siebert said his studies showed that harvesting even stimulated the production of new canes in some rattan species. Siebert also worked with local rattan collectors to grow the palm from both seeds and cuttings just outside the park in existing shade-grown coffee farms. He said the results were very promising. Siebert said Indonesia’s political climate profoundly affects forest conservation and management efforts. After Indonesian president Suharto fell from power in 1998, power devolved to local provincial governments, which complicated environmental management, Siebert said. “The provincial governments have not shown much interest in working with resident people,” Siebert explained. “Coupled with a lack of resources for park management and ethnic, religious and cultural conflict, there has not been a lot of engagement with local residents in conservation efforts.” By not proactively working with locals to manage rattan collection within the park, Siebert said the government is contributing to the breakdown of traditional harvesting methods and the conversion of adjacent forests into cash crops. Indonesia is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. Siebert will also briefly discuss The University of Montana’s partnership with the Peace Corps Masters International program as part of National Peace Corps Week taking place at Montana Western from March 15 to 19, 2010.