Rainforest Restoration: The World's Forests Hold the Key to Healthy Lives

Rainforests are a linchpin in the world’s health, regulating temperatures, moisture and weather patterns. Covering 2 percent of the Earth’s surface, they are home to 50 percent of the world’s plants and animals.

On Washington’s coast and the Olympic Peninsula,  we’re managing land that was industrially logged. We're restoring wild rivers for salmon and temperate rainforest of towering cedars, hemlock and Sitka spruce. We’ve been working at Ellsworth Creek near Willapa Bay for nearly 20 years to learn best how to do this work and taking lessons learned there to our lands on the Hoh, Queets and Clearwater rivers, as well as supporting work by the Quinault Indian Nation on the Quinault River.

Our work here extends through an interconnected area of forests, rivers and sea that runs all the way to southeast Alaska. This "Emerald Edge" is the world’s largest intact coastal temperate rainforest, encompassing about 100 million acres. It’s home to indigenous and local communities whose survival depends on sustainable natural systems. In the quest for a sustainable future, a land-use vision by the Ahousaht First Nation will conserve hundreds of thousands of acres of old-growth forest in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Our Washington chapter has also had an ongoing relationship with the Valdivian Coastal Reserve in Chile, part of an ancient temperate rainforest on the southern coast. This vast stretch of coastal forest is a remnant of millenia past when it was connected to the forests of New Zealand and Australia.

Since 2003, the Conservancy has been managing the reserve and working closely with neighboring fishing villages and indigenous communities to maintain traditional land uses and encourage compatible local economic development.

Valdivia Coastal Reserve, Chile: Sand dunes are slowly overtaking the temperate rainforest. Photo © Ian Shive

The Conservancy is also working in the Maya Rainforest — 35 million acres stretching across Belize, northern Guatemala and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It provides refuge for rare and endangered species, such as harpy eagles and howler monkeys. The forest is also home to vibrant Mayan communities. The Conservancy is working here to transform the region from a deforestation hotspot into a green economy that enables people and nature to thrive.

Neyra Solis of Pronatura watches as a park ranger checks his position using GPS during a patrol of Mexico's Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. Photo © Mark Godfrey/TNC

In Indonesia, logging, palm-oil production, mining and fires have taken a toll on the country’s millions of acres of tropical rainforest over the last 30 years. Here, the Conservancy is working at all levels to propel sustainable development and responsible forest efforts. Last September, the Conservancy and the government of Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province created the Green Growth Compact, a unique partnership comprising 25 companies, government agencies, communities and NGOs committed to working together to conserve forests, reduce emissions and advance sustainable economic growth.

An orangutan in Tanjung Puting National Park in Borneo, Indonesia. Photo credit: © Katie Hawk

In these and other sites around the world, the Conservancy is working with local and national level partners to ensure that rainforests, the wildlife and the people who depend on them can continue to thrive.