Chun K. Lai
I am proud to have served as ISTF Regional Director for Asia-Pacific and Director-at-Large for 17 years, beginning in 1993, when I was the FAO Regional Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific Agroforestry Network based in Bogor, Indonesia. That era proved to be very fruitful for international forestry cooperation, with CIFOR and ICRAF also beginning to establish offices in Bogor.
Dr. Warren Doolittle, who passed away in 2013, was the ISTF President from 1984 to 2001. During that period, memberships peaked at ≈2,000 foresters and affiliates, in 120 countries around the world. Warren and his team were instrumental in advancing ISTF goals and activities, including:
- Publishing a quarterly newsletter in English, Spanish, and French, which was faithfully edited by Dr. Frank Wadsworth, longtime Director of the International Institute of Tropical Forestry based in Puerto Rico. Frank celebrated his 106th birthday in November 2021. (We lost him on January 5th, 2022).
- Preparing an annual Membership Directory.
- Organizing ISTF country chapters via a network of Country Vice-Presidents, as well as student chapters. Yale’s student chapter has organized some 25 annual conferences since its establishment in 1989.
- Distributing relevant publications on tropical forestry. For several years, ISTF served as the North American node for the FAO-supported Forest, Trees & People Programme, coordinated by Ms. Marilyn Hoskins, who was also an ISTF Director.
- Sponsoring workshops and symposia.
- Supporting membership dues of students and colleagues from developing countries.
In those days, ISTF operated on a shoestring budget, relying on part-time volunteers to run the society’s affairs. Modest financial support came from the USFS international forestry program, a few other donors, and membership dues. The Board of Directors was able to convene in person once in Washington, DC, during the 1990s. ISTF also organized networking opportunities for members during the Society of American Foresters’ conventions, World Forestry Congresses, IUFRO conferences, and other fora.
It is great to see that under the leadership of the new ISTF board and coordinator, there are efforts launched to revitalize ISTF, including a new website. I believe that the best way forward for ISTF is to proactively support and engage with the next generation of tropical foresters and leaders of developing and developed countries. One key strategy would be to effectively reach out and collaborate with student chapters and other relevant youth groups—for the future of tropical forestry and forests is literally in their hands!
Author: Chun K. Lai, Independent Consultant, Los Banos, Philippines