Forests in Sustainable Mountain Development

Posted: 14 May 2008

Author: M.Price and N.Butt (Eds.)
CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK, 2001, £75 hb

This book is long (624 pages) but full of valuable case studies, and a treasure house of interesting snippets and asides.

Did you know that tropical cloud forests are now a major source of tourist revenue in Costa Rica and that sites like the "easy to reach Monteverde Reserve attract major numbers of bird watchers from foreign countries searching for the mythic resplendent quetzel or the amazing emerald tucanet"?

Or that "the growing (timber) stock in mountain areas of Europoe is increasing, rather than decreasing due to overexploitation"? While in the United States, it is "increasingly recognized that by far the greatest value of mountain forests is as sources of recreation value and as protectors of watersheds that supply the growing population downstream."

There are over 90 separate contributions and nearly all of them contain illuminating anecdotes as well as contributions to knowledge. Here is one about Peru.

Jane Pratt, former head of The Mountain Institute, describes how sustainable development concepts were introduced into the board room of a major mining company, Antamina, which was to open a US$2.3 billion polymetallic mine near Huascaran National Park (also a World Heritage Site) in Peru. By developing an alternative transport plan, using a slurry pipeline, the risk of catastrophic environmental damage to the Park was avoided.

Detailed case studies are matched in value by a wide range of overviews, many of which should attract even the non-specialist journalist. For example, writing on "Subsidies for Mountain Forestry" R. Beck and M. Suda conclude that "existing funds have not been very effective in reducing deforestation or in achieving sustainable objectives."

Another section estimates that a quarter of international tourism is to mountains "of which 60-70 per cent could be to forest and protected areas". This chapter plunges informatively into the detail of the recreational uses of mountain forests, with case studies of the Italian Dolomites and a profile of income from hunting in the European Alps.

This book is expensive, but it is so packed with up-to-date anecdote, statistics, policy proposals, judgements and overviews gathered world wide, with relevant photographs and tables, that it merits a place on the shelf of any environmentalist or policy journalist - not to mention libraries and well-financed analysts.

Reviewer: Peter Stone

Reviewer Info: Peter Stone is a pioneeer environmental communicator and editor of The State of the World's Mountains, Zed Books, 1992.