Forest Protection: One Last Walk in the Jungle

photo credit: Jason Swartz

Before leaving, we, the Forest Protection Team, were beyond excited to hear about and see pictures of some of the amazing experiences we would get to have in the rainforest of Madre de Dios, Perú. As a group composed of three Environmental Studies majors, we were a little bit more than excited about our mission: deep in la selva (the rainforest), we would visit LPAC (the Las Piedras Amazon Center, run by ARCAmazon) where we were to experience the jungle from the perspective of a forest ranger and take a firsthand approach to learn more about what it takes to protect this wild and beautiful place.

photo credit: Dr. Jason Scullion

During our time at LPAC, we learned so much and were able to experience conservation on the front line. During our stay, we went on night hikes where we saw sleeping butterflies, birds nestled in the ground, and insects of all varieties (most jungle critters like to come out at night when the heat of the sun isn’t beating down on them). During the day, we got to see an unimaginable number of trees and plants. Sometimes just closing our eyes – at night or during the daytime – and experiencing the sounds of the jungle was enough to make us appreciate the amazing biodiversity of the surrounding forest.

One of our greatest adventures was a hike and overnight camping trip with the forest ranger, Harry, who was very experienced at pitching tents (even ones that hang from trees!), starting a fire (which is rather difficult in a rainforest), and navigating the concession’s boundaries. Harry also took us to a corn field in the middle of the jungle, where we learned about the difficulty of protecting the concession from outsiders. It was saddening to learn of the reality of the situation – the people who are destroying the forest for agriculture are just trying to make a living and survive. We were, however, left with a note of hope when we visited the neighboring concession.  Here, a nonprofit called Hoja Nueva is experimenting with agroforestry and biochar as sustainable agricultural solutions and is working with the local community to demonstrate and teach these alternate methods.

photo credit: Jason Swartz

We accomplished so much more than our original mission of learning about forest protection from the perspective of a ranger. We didn’t just experience the rainforest and all of its complexities – we became full-fledged participants in an environment so profoundly zoetic that we couldn’t help but feel a calling, stronger than any we have ever felt before, to ensure that this untamed paradise continues to thrive.

Check out our awesome video (edited by Cris!)

The First Few Days

Text by Ian, photos by Sami

Life ain’t always sweet: a first cup of coffee in Peru
After being on a plane for the bulk of the past day or so, there was definitely an eagerness to do something to get myself moving. We flew from Washington, to El Salvador, to Cusco Peru, where we were met with hospitality. The group had gone to a local restaurant called “Organic Green” where we had a mind ful lunch filled with local and fresh ingredients so that we could touch base with our goals.

The daylight showed a busy Cusco, with plenty of people going about their lives, children playing soccer, and the hustle of the street vendors. However, the night life revealed something different.

sami 238

I went running around town that night and it became clear to me rather quickly that this was an entirely different fish tank than any other I had swam in, before. My eyes were met with things that made me realize that perhaps this experience was not going to be a colorful bead to add to a bracelet.

Traveling can provide an opportunity to see things with a fresh perspective. And although Peru is captivating with vast, colorful, and mountainous landscapes, its life struggles are still very real. Among these struggles include poverty, that we often turn a blind eye to in our modern and “civilized” world. Reading about it is one thing, seeing it and feeling it is something else entirely.

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Ecotourism: From the Rolling Hills of Central Maryland to the Rainforests of Peru

From Carroll County Dept. of Recreation & Parks

For two Environmental majors with an avid interest in nature and love for travel, a class preparing us for an adventure in Peru is the ideal academic setting. That trip, however, is not until January and we need to find our nature fix elsewhere to unwind from academic, extracurricular, and social stress during the semester.

Fortunately, we (Cris and Jase) have convenient access to a local park called Hashawha Environmental Center, which we use as a way to enjoy nature and de-stress.  Just a few weeks ago on a beautiful Maryland autumn afternoon, we found ourselves lost in nature at Hashawha, both figuratively and literally (We both love adventure but unfortunately neither of us have particularly strong navigational abilities)!  Not only does Hashawha provide a beautiful natural setting for the general public to enjoy, but it also serves as a unique way to preserve the native flora and fauna of the east coast of North America found specifically in Carroll County.

Photo by Jason Swartz (Hashawha Environmental Center)

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