A love of trees, beautiful places and the natural environment resulted in the now director of BRBR Ltd beginning his career in forestry on the Isle of Mull, working for the Forestry Commission back in the 70s. The same love also led him to persuade his bosses in Inverness to include a percentage of native hardwoods in some new plantations on the island, instead of only the traditional mix of larch, pine and spruce.
Over several years, seeds from several native, commercial species, including mahogany, cedar, jatoba, ipe and cumaru, were collected at the appropriate time, germinated and nurtured for a year in the nursery set up in Pimenta Bueno, Rondonia, before the young trees were planted out, often in clearings made by timber extraction operations. This system is known as enrichment planting.
At the same time we were also running sawmills, kiln drying and machining operations, grading and buying timber products across Brazil and in Bolivia and exporting a range of goods, including flooring and finished furniture to the UK, other parts of Europe and the US.
Our house on the banks of the Rio Pimenta, one of the 2000 or so tributaries of the Amazon river, was constructed from local timber, sawn, kiln dried and machined by us in Pimenta Bueno in 1983. All the flooring was made from Cumaru.
Despite the high humidity, very high temperatures and occasional threats from the rising river, the house is still there and looking pretty good after 25 rainy seasons, which is quite a tribute to the resilience of the hardwood timber used.
In the late 80s and early 90s, when speaking at international environmental conferences at the behest of European embassies, environmental bodies and occasionally, Brazilian government departments, we always maintained that the best way to save the Amazon rainforest is to make it too valuable to cut down – not only in environmental terms but in cash terms.
I argued that this could be done by extracting valuable mature trees before they fall down and rot, and planting new trees of the same species in the clearings created, to guarantee future income and the bio-diversity of the forest. Obviously, this would only work in conjunction with a drastic reduction in slash and burn activities. The revenue from these operations could be maximised by making fuller use of the raw material and adding value to their produce by higher and more sophisticated levels of industrialisation. It can be done!
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