About us

Mahogany drying 2016
Every year in Puerto Rico hundreds of trees of valuable hardwoods are cut down and discarded in landfills and dumps, or are abandoned on roadsides.

Puerto Rico Hardwoods Inc. (PRH) is a Puerto Rican business enterprise since January 2015 that arose from the need to divert from the waste-stream wood refuse derived from scheduled cuttings by government and commercial entities alike.  As part of PRH’s business model, the trunks and sizeable branches of trees that need to be cut down are taken to a repository for processing rather than being dumped as ‘waste’ in the islands sanitary landfills.  PRH is also harvesting and selling timber from 30 year old plantations at Las Casas de la Selva, Patillas, and aims to enable sustainable harvesting of timber from other plantation lands in Puerto Rico.

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PRH maintains that sustainability must start with minimization of waste, and intelligent use of local resources rather than contributing to the devastation of forests in other countries. Additionally, in the context of global increases in deforestation, demonstrating long-term methods for economic utilization of previously disturbed secondary forests in Puerto Rico is valuable in helping reduce pressure on the economic exploitation of pristine rainforest areas globally. PRH is built around a renewable and recyclable resource. We recognize that to be one of the first of Puerto Rico’s hardwood distributors, sustainability isn’t just a marketing device; it is a practice that ensures the future of our lives and then our business.

PRH sits within a backdrop of thirty years of dedicated people participation in sustainable forestry.

PRH is located on the land known as Las Casas de la Selva, home to the Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry Project, in the southern mountains adjacent to the Carite State Forest, on the island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.

PRH was created and developed by Andrés Rúa and Thrity Vakil. As founders and former directors of the Agroforestry Development Advisory Council (CADA), Rúa and Vakil’s broader vision is to promote sustainable forestry on the Island, and to reduce the vegetative waste going to landfill by making it valuable. They are both current Directors of Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry and Rainforest Enrichment Project in Patillas, Puerto Rico, established 30 years ago by The Institute of Ecotechnics.

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CADA

The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), promotes the salvaging of hardwoods and specifically endorses the initiative of PRH of diverting from the waste stream any commercially valuable hardwoods, including trees that are listed, but felled for specified and DNER authorized reasons.

An example follows: In July 2015, twenty-three 50-year old trees of the Puerto Rican Mahogany Hybrid, (Swietenia mahagoni x macrophylla), were felled by the Municipality of Arroyo, as expressly authorized by the DNER through permit.  It was necessary to remove these trees in order to preserve the structural integrity of a culturally and historically valuable site, and the roads and pavement surrounding the Arroyo Cemetery. The action was also authorized by the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña.

Puerto Rico Hardwoods, Inc. has consulted extensively with the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, and local US Fish Wildlife Service officials in charge of ensuring compliance to CITES, the Convention in International Trade of Endangered Species as well as US based Dr. Ed Espinoza, Deputy Director of National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory, who provided the positive DNA identification of these mahogany trees from samples sent to him. The DNER will furnish PRH with documentation to authenticate the work being done.  The wood from Mahogany trees is coveted worldwide, and logging of these trees everywhere else that they grow is restricted in order to prevent their extinction. This is not the case with mahogany in Puerto Rico. (Link to history of Mahogany in PR-coming soon)

These trees of the Arroyo Cemetery were to be ripped out by excavators, and destroyed before being dumped in a landfill. In a critical situation, PRH provided professional services of felling and removal of the trees in exchange for the wood. Towing and dump trucks were hired by PRH to deliver the trees to the Patillas location of the Tropic Ventures Project. A hugely wasteful scenario was diverted.

The PRH Team:

Thrity Jal Vakil
2000-2007: Volunteer with Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry Project.
2007-present: Director; Science Research director, management, logistics, finance, and hands-on aspects of tree selection, wood harvest, production, drying, marketing, and selling.
2015-present: President of PRH, rescue of wasted wood; milling and drying operations; sustainable hardwood supplier.

Andrés Rúa González
2005-present: Technical Director of Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry Project. All aspects of wood production: harvest, haul, mill, dry, design and create wood for sale, products.
2015 -to present: CEO of PRH. Chief Sawyer and Production Manager on municipal projects to salvage Mahogany and other valuable wood otherwise destined for landfill.

In August and September 2015, PRH employed architect and woodworker, Ricardo Valle Pérez, and apprentice, Alex Figueroa, who were trained by Andrés Rúa on chainsaw and sawmill safety and operating procedures. The two months saw over 16,000 board feet of Mahogany wood milled, including other salvaged valuable timber trees, (when tow trucks could be afforded), such as Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), along with Saman (Samanea saman) and several Ucar (Bucida buceras) trees. This valuable milled wood is currently stored at the Tropic Ventures drying facility in Patillas. PRH also continues to selectively harvest Majó Azul (Hibiscus elatus), from plantations on the Tropic Ventures land.

The salvaged wood is being used to grow a skilled artisan workshop, to create fine wood products and furniture, as well as serve as an export source of revenue for the island.  This enterprise is concerned with employment in all areas from salvage and transportation, harvesting, milling, drying, and creation of value-added products, along with marketing and sales.  The ongoing study of forestry, awareness and training in sustainable management practices, tree-planting activities, and erosion control are perpetually linked into these activities. Most important is the abolition of vegetative waste being sent to land-fills. As of February 2016, PRH makes fine wood products, and continues to salvage, mill, dry, and sell valuable Puerto Rican hardwoods.

mahogbkmtch     solid mahogany table      mahogdetail

HISTORY

Since 1983, Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry Project has followed a mission to research and demonstrate the economic use of rainforest land using methods that do not destroy the rainforest ecology. The Institute of Ecotechnics initiated this unique project in Patillas, Puerto Rico, pioneering experiments in sustainable rainforest ecology, through line-planting of valuable timber trees. Nearly 300 acres of the 1000-acre property have been planted with over 40,000 native and exotic hardwood trees with extremely promising results. 700 acres remains as a wilderness preserve for watershed protection, research and educational ecotourism.  Working in cooperation with the Puerto Rican Department of Natural & Environmental Resources (DNER), the US Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife, and The International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF), the project is certified as a Stewardship Forest and has an approved ‘Sustainable Forestry Stewardship Management Plan’. The project is also registered as an Auxiliary Forest by the DNER.

Since 2000, plantation areas have been experimentally thinned, timber sold. ‘Ready, willing and able’ apprentices from all over the world have worked and lived at the project. Tropic Ventures Research & Education Foundation was incorporated in 1998 as a non-profit in Puerto Rico to support the project’s research and education activities. The Earthwatch Institute has been a key collaborator in assisting in the scientific mission which has included timber thinning experiments, herpetological surveys, bird surveys, vine, fungi studies, and endangered endemic tree planting and monitoring is also underway.

2011: The Education & Research arm of Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry Project was awarded a $21,000 grant by the DNER in PR to assess the wood and non-wood forest products on the island. Andrés Rúa created the nuestramadera.org website to document and archive the findings. Much information was gathered on wood, products, artisans, fairs, woodworkers, & sawmills.

2012: Several key discussions, conferences and gatherings, including several symposiums at the DNER, and the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, along with a hands-on, in-the-field timber workshop at Tropic Ventures. (Link to images- coming soon) Dr. Frank H. Wadsworth, provided mentorship to the team, and continues to do so, to the present.

2013: CADA, Council for the Development of Agro-forestry, founded by Andrés Rúa and 3t Vakil, was born from these gatherings and discussions, and the open membership included individuals from universities and the private sector, members of Government agencies, and many other institutions, all brought together with an over-arching interest in the development of policies pertaining to the sustainable and intelligent use of Puerto Rico’s valuable & unique natural resources. Nuestra Madera became the owner of a collection of 120 different hardwoods of Puerto Rico, thanks to Prof. J.M Mutt.

2014: CADA began the discussion on the absurd situation of wood wastage going on in Puerto Rico, primarily carried out by, but not limited to, AEE and Government agencies. Council members agreed that an innovative business enterprise could make important contributions to the reduction, if not abolition of waste, and further, enhancement & creation of methods of recycling and re-use. PRH came into being in the cradle of these discussions. An enterprise to pursue the process of sustainable forestry in Puerto Rico from all angles.

 

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WHO:

3t Vakil, President

3t has been with Tropic Ventures for 15 years, 8 of those as Director. Homestead management, volunteer care, scientific investigation, data management, gardens and nurseries, tree-planting, tree identification, selection of trees for harvest, the realities of felling, good milling, efficient drying operations, and the marketing and selling of sustainably-grown and harvested valuable hardwood are some of the things that keep 3t busy. 3t has worked directly with Earthwatch teams for 15 years, and has been a Principal Investigator for eight years, studying forestry at Las Casas de la Selva. 3t is an accomplished painter and digital artist. www.3tvakil.com

Andrés Rúa González, Director

Andrés has been with Tropic Ventures for 10 years as Technical Director. He is key in working with volunteers on homestead and workshop upgrades and infrastructure. He is trained in directional felling, and in his years at the project has learnt the art of milling and drying woods. He has been involved with tree-planting, tree identification, selection of trees for harvesting, and sales of wood. From 2012-2015,  Andrés carried out the Forest Products Assessment Project in Puerto Rico. He created the website www.nuestramadera.org to promote and organize the wood industry in Puerto Rico. Co-founder CADA, (Consejo Asesor para el Desarrollo Forestal de Puerto Rico).  Andrés is also our webmaster a talented musician, composer and woodworker.