Last year my family and I traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico. During our visit to the El Yunque Forest, we had the rare opportunity to celebrate National Public Lands Day. This offered us a close-up view of the forest wildlife and some valuable lessons in forest conservation. To top it off, there was no entrance fee to see this beautiful national wonder that no amount of money could buy.
That Lands Day holiday, we learned the El Yunque National Forest was actually one of the smallest forests in the US National Forest System. This forest has 28,000 acres with 240 native trees, of which 88 are rare and 23 are found only in this forest, according to the US Forest Service. The most interesting fact we learned was that hurricanes actually regenerate the forest. Damage caused by the great impact of wind and rain begins the 60-year regeneration cycle. During these years, re-growth increases forest productivity as it rejuvenates itself. To me, this suggests Mother Nature will take care of herself if we can just leave her alone. 
As a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP), I have great respect for our environment and understand that our stewardship of the forest today will affect future generations. Since the forest covers approximately 30% of the earth’s mass, we must view it not only from a microscopic perspective, but globally as well. The forest is a community of diverse organisms and supports such living things as bacteria and fungi, enormous trees, birds, shrubs, ants, beetles, fish, mammals, and even human life. 
Unfortunately, such forests around the world continue to be at risk due to the dramatic acceleration of global deforestation over recent decades. The tropical forests in South America and Southeast Asia are cut and burned at alarming rates. This is done for large and small agricultural and industrial purposes, from huge palm oil plantations to slash-and-burn subsistence farming. 
Particular plants and trees in the rain forest are uniquely efficient at transforming carbon into life-giving oxygen. For example, the Amazon and the Boreal Forest are two critical regions important to all living things. In these two areas, trees and peat lands comprise some of the world’s largest “carbon reservoirs.” Carbon stored in this way is not released into the atmosphere where it would trap heat and accelerate global warming. One hectare of the Boreal Forest is twice as effective at trapping carbon during photosynthesis by turning it into oxygen and using it for growth. 
Another relevant point is that when these same forests, trees, and plants die, they release their carbon back into the atmosphere, increasing the already rising carbon levels. Clearly, this is an important issue. I believe the cap-and-trade proposal is the first step to reducing carbon. The next step is to enact tighter laws to save our forests and to stop global deforestation. This will naturally reduce our carbon footprint. We need to get out of the way of Mother Nature so she can do what she does best.
Connie Rankin, President
LEAD 2 GREEN
A Commercial Real Estate Company
The Author, Connie Rankin, is the President and Broker of LEAD 2 GREEN (previously known as Customized Real Estate Services, Inc.), a full services green commercial real estate firm helping companies make informed commercial real estate decisions. For further information call 281-931-7775 or e-mail crankin@Lead-2-Green.com.
List of References:
1. El Yunque National Rain Forest, Puerto Rico
2. US Forest Service
4. Boreal Forest