Every June, Panama celebrates National Reforestation Day and this year a newly formed organization, Bocas Rainforest Reforestation Initiative (BRRI), held an event in Dolphin Bay, where over 150 tree saplings were planted! The day was organized by the founders of BRRI, Brian and Amy Wilcox of Dolphin Bay Hideaway, along with Dr. Peter Lahanas and Leonor Ceballos Meraz, with the Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation (ITEC). The saplings were planted on San Cristobal Island where over four thousand trees (and counting) have been planted in the last four years!
Between Dolphin Bay Hideaway and ITEC, tens of thousands of saplings in the Bocas del Toro archipelago and adjacent mainland have been planted, with more going into the ground every month. All of this activity was self-funded and self-completed. “There is ample opportunity for low budget, low commitment work that makes a huge impact (albeit down the road),” Brian tells us.
Well there was ample opportunity to make an impact on June 26, 2021, for Panama’s 7th annual National Reforestation Day when the saplings of 25 different native tree species were planted. Joining BRRI to volunteer on this effort were officials from MiAmbiente (Panama’s Ministry of Environment), the Bocas del Toro Rotary Club and Planet Rehab. The Bocas Breeze was there to get their hands in the dirt and start to make up for all the paper we have printed over the years.
Brian kicked off the event with a briefing to give an overview of BRRI and explain the plan for the day. He then instructed everyone in attendance to introduce themselves to a person they did not know in the group and that this person was going to be their tree planting partner. What a nice icebreaker! Members of the Rotary Club partnered up with MiAmbiente government officials, each pair was assigned a tree sapling or two to plant and everyone ventured up the hill speaking Spanglish, getting acquainted with each other on their way to help rebuild the rainforest.
Brian and Amy have worked extensively on the property behind their Dolphin Bay Hideaway eco-lodge. Their goal every year has been to plant at least 1,000 trees. Long before the expat couple arrived, many trees were cut down for lumber and cattle grazing with no replanting efforts. This results in either an absent or unbalanced forest, lacking the conditions for many important species to flourish. The best way to properly reforest is to clear much of the forest floor of strangling vines and start renewal. Every year the Dolphin Bay Hideaway team clears out a new section, carefully chooses a diverse selection of saplings and the jungle is restored to a more native balance. A healthy forest also fosters the ecosystems required for Panamanian animal life to prosper. The results are amazing! On our walk back after the tree planting, Brian pointed out the first section they began reforesting years ago and it is a clear success.
The day concluded with a delicious group lunch at No Name Bar just around the corner, which was graciously sponsored by Dolphin Bay Hideaway. I got the opportunity to further the conversation with MiAmbiente officials and Alicia Hidalgo had this to say, “Planting even just one tree is a valuable effort for the planet. It’s not just the responsibilities of the authorities, but everyone.”
Well everyone did a great job that day, especially the leaders of reforestation in Bocas del Toro: BRRI. They have since kept up the great work with tree planting activities in both July and August. The next outing will be on September 30 on the mainland and they are looking for locations for the subsequent months. If you would like to volunteer, donate tree saplings or have a location that could be reforested, get in touch with BBRI on Facebook or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Bocas Rainforest Reforestation Initiative
Mission: To bring together like-minded individuals and organizations who are interested in establishing forests on their property in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago and adjacent mainland with the intention to produce renewable resources, sequester carbon to mitigate the effects of global warming and/or to reestablish the original biodiversity of the region.
Vision: To see a future where trees are established on regional lands no longer in use, a country where its original biodiversity is returned, and a world returned to its normal atmospheric levels of carbon.