COUNTRY REPORT: FORESTRY OUTLOOK STUDY FOR THE CARIBBEAN
Dominica, the largest island in the OECS sub-grouping of the English speaking Caribbean, is situated at 15° 25' North Latitude and 61° 25' West Longitude between the two French Departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique. It has an area of 289.8 m² (750 km²).
For its size, Dominica never ceases to amaze its visitors. It possesses some of the best tracts of oceanic rain forests and a vibrant assemblage of plants and animals (including a number of endemics) flourishing together in their natural habitats. Its forest resources are the envy of many of its visitors. It is an island of rivers and rainbows, and is home to the last surviving Carib Indians in the Lesser Antilles.
It has been submitted that were it even remotely possible for Christopher Columbus to retrace his steps back to this hemisphere, Dominica would be the only island he would immediately recognize. A subtle form of criticism of the pace of "development" in the island. It is this very same ruggedness, which served to dissuade any attempts at settlements by the early Europeans.
This report is short on statistics, because in most part the information is either non-existent or not immediately available in a form that can be properly utilized. A lot of the information that is available (particularly as it relates to Forest Resources) is not very conclusive, although they do serve as a useful basis upon which a more thorough and in-depth assessment of the resource could be undertaken. The immediate foregoing comment is not intended to distract from much of the good work that has been done.
CURRENT STATUS OF THE FORESTRY SECTOR
Economy and economic policy
Dominica's economy is based largely on foreign exchange earnings from the weekly exports of bananas to the European market. In the 1988-1989 period, the banana industry brought in some EC $100 million dollars in foreign exchange earnings. There is also some light manufacturing (soaps, detergents, beverages) and the inter-island trade in agricultural products. This type of economy is very fragile and is easily disrupted by man made and natural factors. E.g. Strikes and Hurricanes.
Efforts are well underway to diversify the economy. In the services sector, much emphasis has been placed on the tourism industry as an effective support for the problem plagued banana industry. Market forces and WTO conditionalities have served to place tremendous pressures on the preferential trading relationship which Caribbean bananas enjoyed on the European market.
To offset the potential negative effect of a drop in foreign exchange earnings, government has in very recent times targeted the services sector particularly tourism and off-shore financing schemes in its economic diversification strategy. Dominica's "Nature Island" image, which is used to woo tourists to the island, is heavily dependent on its natural forests, physical beauty and rich biodiversity. In 1997 government instituted the user fees programme for visitation to a number of tourist sites. During its first two years of operations, and despite its many teething problems, the programme brought in some EC $1.2 million dollars in 1997-1998, and EC $1 088 216 in 1998-1999. The programme is well on course to pass the million dollars mark into its third year of operation.
In the financial services sector, offshore banking and an economic citizenship programme have been introduced to aid in generating revenue for the state.
There are no large-scale forest/timber based industries on the island. For its domestic needs, Today, Dominica depends to a very large extent on imports of lumber and small, cottage size, very expensive and wasteful, chainsaw operations to supply the raw materials for the furniture and construction industries. There exists though, a timber company, which specializes in housing and furniture components and is dependent on imports of large quantities of wood from other Caricom countries and even further afield to South America.
Like many of its Caribbean neighbours, the Commonwealth of Dominica is a former colony of Great Britain. The island became a sovereign independent republic when it ceded political ties with the mother country on November 3rd 1978. It follows a Westminster system of government with a President as Head of State and a Prime Minister who is head of government. Elections are constitutionally due every five years.
Three weeks ago, on January 31st 2000, the people of Dominica reaffirmed their belief in the electoral system and elected a government to lead this country into the 21st Century. In its election campaign/programme, the victorious party pledged to do everything humanly possible to ensure that Dominica's natural environment is not unduly disturbed, and that a lot of attention will be placed on ensuring that the integrity of the environment is not compromised. In so doing, the government of Dominica has committed itself to the sustainable utilisation of the country's natural resources.
True to its word, the new Prime Minister appointed the president of the Dominica Conservation Association to lead a restructured Ministry of the Agriculture, Planning and the Environment. A former member of staff of the Forestry & Wildlife Division was appointed to serve as Technical Advisor to the Minster for Agriculture, Planning and the Environment.
Before that though in 1999, the former government took a policy decision to create an Environmental Coordinating Unit (ECU) within the Ministry of Agriculture. That agency it is envisaged, will attempt to bring greater coordination to environmental management programmes on the island. At the moment a number of different Ministries and government Departments hold responsibility for certain aspects of environmental management. Each operates as self-governing entities within established legal frameworks. It is within the ECU's terms of reference to foster greater cooperation between the environmental management players.
Environmental, social and economic importance of trees and forests
The Commonwealth of Dominica has already been described by visiting geographers and writers, that in terms of size, it is the third most rugged country on earth after Switzerland and New Zealand. Christopher Columbus it is reported, crumbled a piece of paper and threw it on a table before the king and Queen of Spain, to assist him in describing Dominica's ruggedness.
Dominica's rainfall ranges from a high of 10 000 mm in the wet interior to 1 000 mm on the dry west coast. These physical characteristics of Dominica would therefore demand greater care and attention on how the physical environment of Dominica is to be managed, particularly its forest resources.
Forests provide many services to mankind. These include raw materials for the furniture and building industry. Forests and trees ameliorate the local climate and serve as valuable sinks for spent atmospheric gases particularly oxygen. Forests serve as a store for biodiversity and regulate stream flow among many other benefits to man.
Dominica's forests are home to two endemic parrots, the Sisserou or Imperial Parrot (Amazona imperialis) and the Rednecked Parrot or Jaco (Amazona arusiaca). There are, in addition 20 species of crab, nine lizards and five snakes and 12 species of native mammals, all Bats.
Two local utility companies (Dominica Electricity Services and the Dominica Water & Sewerage Company) have collectively been harnessing the water from two of the island's three National Parks and two Forest Reserves to generate electricity and provide potable water for the local population. Statistics on the volumes of water use and distributed by either of the utility companies are not readily available.
In Dominica, a large proportion of the rural population continues to depend on the forest for much of their survival. Wildlife hunting is important in the community. A recent survey of wildlife hunters on the island revealed that significant numbers of wild animals have been taken from the wild to augment the local protein intake, and also to supply hotels and restaurants for the tourist trade. The Agouti (Dasyprocta antillensis), Manicou or Opposum (Didelphys marsupialis), Frogs or Crapaud (Leptodactylus fallax) and Crabs are the species that are most sought after. On average, 2 Agoutis are taken per hunter on every trip. Most of the hunters agree that the wildlife populations are on the decline. They blame the increasing use of Agro-chemicals and deforestation as the main causes of this decline.
There appears to be a thriving unofficial external trade in wildlife in Dominica. In 1992, five for the export of wildlife permits were issued. That figure reached 67 by 1997. Wildlife is exported from Dominica mainly for domestic use and research to other Caribbean destinations, USA and Europe.
The indigenous people of Dominica, the Carib Indians, harvest a type of reed called Larouma (Ischnosiphon arouma) from the forests to be used as raw materials in crafting locally made souvenir items. In recent times it has become increasingly difficult for the Caribs to find that resource in sufficient amounts for their trade.
The use of firewood in the home and for production of charcoal, continues to significant elements in the rural economy. Although the practice is a widespread one, actual volumes harvested however, are not easily determined since traditionally, the practice of gathering firewood has not been documented.
The sap from the back of the Gommier Tree (Dacryodes excelsa) is used to start kitchen fires for cooking and also used in religious celebrations. These practices are uncoordinated.
Hiking across country along the many footpaths which traverses the forest has been a favourite pastime of many community groups, seeking through sponsored walks (Belle Marché), to raise funds for their group projects.
Dominica has not had a cadastral survey undertaken to determine in near precise details the extent of land ownership. This would most certainly assist in clarifying the many doubts about the extent of state-owned forest. However, it is estimated that about 45% of Dominica's forest estate is state-owned. These include among others three National Parks (Morne Trois Pitons, Cabrits and Morne Diablotin), two Forest Reserves and a few relatively large tracts of unallocated state lands, which are scattered around the country.
To date, there has not been any authoritative study done on the extent of forest resources (quantity, quality and composition) which are available on privately held lands.
Land use, including national parks/protected areas
Dominica has a very progressive and admirable track record in setting aside lands for conservation purposes. In 1975 the 6 879.8 ha (17 000 acres) Morne Trios Pitons National Park was legally established followed in 1977 by the 8 903 ha (22 000 acres) Northern Forest Reserve. In 1986 the 531 ha (1 313 acres) Cabrits National Park. In between the above stated periods in 1976, the Forestry & Wildlife Act was enacted, thus offering greater direct protection to the island's faunal resources. In January 2000, a third national park, the 3 335.49 ha (8 242 acres) Morne Diablotin National Park, was established in the north central portion of Dominica.
Earlier on, long before 1972, the 410 ha (1 013 acres) Central Forest Reserve was established.
Each of the above named natural forest systems possess significant resource base that require organized, informed and systematic inventory and auditing.
Natural forest resources including mangrove
Since 1962 there has been a steady decline in forest area and volumes. In 1987, following an FAO sponsored forest inventory, it was estimated that there were 4.9 million m³ of timber compared to 8 million m³ in 1962. A further review of only marketable species revealed that this 4.9 million m³ would drop to 1.7 million m³.
In 1962 it was estimated that there were 23 359 ha (57 720 acres) of total land area as productive forests. In 1987, that figure had dropped to 16 000 ha (39 536 acres). In consideration of land ownership, marketability and accessibility factors, that figure (16 000 ha) was subsequently reduced to 8 089 ha or (19 987 acres). A staggering 34.6% drop in productive forests over a 25 years period. Average volume was reduced from 306 m³/ha to 159 m³/ha. Dacryodes excelsa, Amanoa caribaea, Sterculia caribaea and Tapura antillana are the main species. The area of land within the 6 879.8 ha (17 000 acres) Morne Trois Pitons National Park was not included in the 1987 figure.
Care must be taken when referencing information contained in Roger de Milde's (FAO consultant to the Forest Management) report on Dominica's Forest resource base. De Milde himself cautioned about using his own findings as the ultimate, since his work was undertaken over a very short period of time and was not tested with extended field examinations. In-fact further field investigations conducted by staff of the Forestry Division attached to the inventory project, supported the submissions of de Milde. Additionally the absence of accurate land ownership maps, prepared after a thorough survey and registration of all lands in Dominica, presents many difficulties in making precise estimates of productive forest lands, growing stock and timber volumes island-wide (state vs Private).
Two authoritative studies on Dominica's vegetation types conclude inter alia that climate and altitude are the basis for classification. Six distinct vegetation types of major significance have been identified. These include: Littoral Vegetation, Dry Scrub Woodland, Moist Forest, Rainforest, Montane Forest and Cloud Forest / Elfin Woodland. Along the West coast conditions are good for the growth and development of cactus plants. The exact area is not available. In addition to the above, can be added the association of plants within the Valley of Desolation (Fumarole Vegetation). The occurrence of mangrove areas on the island is insignificant.
Dry scrub woodland
Cloud forest / elfin woodland
Planted Forest Resources: Because of its extensive and rich natural vegetation resource, Plantation Forestry in Dominica has not been a major programme of forest development activities. Following the destruction to the forests of Dominica, caused by Hurricane David in 1979, some reforestation (funded by the International Labour Organization) was undertaken in a few areas considered then, to be critical to water catchments protection.
Existing plantations of Mahogany (Swietenia spp.) and Blue mahoe (Hibiscus elatus) were planted more than 30 years ago, purely for experimental and research purposes. They were established at various points around the island from the wet interior to the windswept Windward side and to the dry west coast. The regular, bi-annual inventories of the resource, has since been discontinued for a long time now. It is estimated that the total area island-wide of forest plantations is not more than 100 acres.
FOREST PRODUCTS PRODUCTION, TRADE AND CONSUMPTION
The development of any meaningful and viable forest industry in Dominica has been an on-again, off-again matter. From the early years of the 20th century there have been attempts at harvesting the immense volumes of timber which exist in the forest. Dominica's topography and its accompanying heavy overhead costs for any meaningful and economic returns, have for all intents and purposes, frustrated every such attempt. The earliest record of any such venture dates back to 1909 when the Dominica Forests limited was granted a lease to harvest timber on a 12 500 acres site at Blandy near Portsmouth. That early attempt at exploiting Dominica's forests was short-lived when in 1913 it folded up operations.
In 1946 another attempt was made to harvest lumber from Dominica's forest. The venture known as Smith & Lords, harvested timber mostly in the Pond Case area. That too was short lived and folded up in 1952.
Sixteen years later, in 1968, another company attempted to cash in on Dominica's abundant timber resources. DomCan timbers were issued with a cutting license to harvest timber on state lands any where on Dominica. The company went to work and concentrated much of its efforts in the Central Forest Reserve. After a few short years (1968-1971), the company succumbed to the harsh economic reality of logging in Dominica, and left the island in bankruptcy. During the period of operations, the company produced some 6 948 447 board feet of lumber. A total of 1 970 270 board feet were exported.
Long before the century would end though, two new attempts would be made to reap more of Dominica's forest bounty. Following the devastation of Hurricane David on Dominica's forests, the Rotary Club of Dominica teamed up with Rotary Canada to begin a timber salvage operation. This was necessary in light of the massive destruction to the housing stock on the island. After a few years, with the salvage efforts complete, the company would eventually develop to be registered as Dominica Timbers Ltd with a lumber processing plant in the Picard area, close to Portsmouth. They were given logging rights on the privately owned 928 acres Morne Plaisance Estate. By 1989, the company would quickly move into the Dyer/Syndicate Estates in what was basically a timber extraction exercise for local farmers before the land would have been planted with bananas. The company folded up in early 1990.
To the north-east of Dominica, a cooperative venture was already ongoing involving the local Catholic Church and the farmers from the north-east. The North Eastern Timbers Limited began in the mid 1980's as a cooperative effort on private lands. In 1987 the company was granted a 50 acres logging concession from government within the Northern Forest Reserve. The Company's operations came to a premature end in early part of the 1990's. By 1996, another effort was made to revive North Eastern Timbers under new management known as "Island Timbers Company". That company was also granted a timber concession area in the north of the island. That too was short lived.
By the mid 1980s, the Cottage Forest Industry (CFI) project with funding from the Mac Arthur Foundation project was developed. The Caribbean Natural Areas Resources Institute (CANARI) executed the project. It entailed harvesting and processing of timber using chainsaws with Alaskan Mill close to the point where the tree was felled. This was primarily to ensure that minimum disturbance took place in the forest. This practice was labour intensive. There was very little emphasis, if any, on the construction of roads into the forest. A sinking fund was put in place to assist the members of the group, who also pledged their support to do some conservation work (reforestation) on a part time basis. A logging concession in a central area of the island was identified and marked out for the group. The group survived for a while then broke up. Lack of adequate and effective management was blamed for the collapse.
In all the above, statistics on actual volumes removed, processed, and sold are very incomplete or even readily available. However the following should be noted.
In 1984, Dominica imported 1 351 m³ of Sawnwood. In 1985, that figure shot up to 1 928 m³, only to fall to 1 475 m³ in 1986. By 1989 that figure reached some 6 124 m³ of Sawnwood. During that same period, local production of Sawnwood reached 3 248 m³, but eventually dropped to 1 073 m³ 1990. A cursory examination of the statistics will reveal that the drop in imports coincided with the peak production period of the local timber industry during the period 1981 to 1986. This would no doubt lead to huge savings on scarce foreign exchange.
There is a constant demand for round wood (3-5 inches diameter) for use in the construction industry, particular housing. In an effort to save on the rented cost for other forms of support (Akros) for concrete decks and other uses in the construction industry, small contractors use large quantities of round wood. A lot of these can be found on private lands, but there are many instances of illegal felling of round wood from state owned forests, particularly the unallocated state lands. This situation has developed to one of concern for the authorities on Dominica, as there is no measure of control, and management on private lands is ineffective. Whilst there is no statistical information to support that concern, the widespread use of this material as seen in housing developments zones, must be a cause for serious concern.
When taken from private lands, many different species of trees are used. However, the species that seem to be the most affected is the Bwa cote (Tapura latifolia). When taken from state lands under the supervision of the Forestry Division, greater care is taken in the selection of the site species and quantity. There is the real fear that future stock of important forest tree species, will eventually disappear if not given the opportunity to grow and develop in a well planned and managed programme. Additionally, there is also the concern of deforestation taking place and the corresponding effect on water-catchments, wildlife and simply aesthetics.
OTHER FORESTRY PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
Wood is still widely used as a source of domestic fuel, particularly in rural Dominica. Similarly, charcoal production and sale continue to be very important aspects of the rural economy. Every week, perhaps hundreds of "bags" of charcoal are brought to the main produce market in Roseau for sale to the public. Unlike wood, charcoal is a very popular fuel among urban residents for cooking and other domestic uses (e.g. barbecue)
Supplies of wood for fuel and charcoal production are drawn from both private and state lands from throughout Dominica. The results of a 1982 study on charcoal production are not immediately available.
Dominica's abundant forest resources are key elements in sustaining the relatively heavy flow of water in Dominica's many streams and rivers. Despite the obvious drop in volume, rivers continue to play an important part of recreation life in Dominica. Riverside picnics are favourite pastimes in the life of the average Dominican family on many a weekend and on public holidays. Hundreds of Dominicans converge on our rivers for a day. This form of recreation has also become an important element in Dominica's tourism product. Recently a new river-based activity in "kayaking" was initiated. The success of such a programme is too soon to be determined.
Rivers supply most of our domestic and industrial water needs. The local water company has a network of water intakes on Dominican rivers, which serve to supply potable water to the villages, town and city. Those systems which were recently constructed (last ten years or so), have been purposely located on the headwaters of the targeted rivers, some of them way up in the protected forest areas (National Parks or Forest Reserves). This will no doubt serve to ensure a more reliable supply of good quality water, into the medium to long-term. The sustainable management of the forests will ensure that adequate supplies of water are available for societies needs.
The responsibility for water catchments protection in Dominica rests with the Forestry & Wildlife Division. The two utility companies which draw water for their service, are not involved in the tedious task of ensuring that the sources remain protected and safe from any encroachment from other land use practice. There is need to adequately and properly demarcate every water catchments area to ensure optimum protection and to inform future planning.
Dominica's tourism is heavily reliant on the existing forest resource and associated natural systems. Its mountains and valleys, rivers, lakes, Sulphur springs, avifauna, excellent Scuba Diving, hiking, mountain climbing and river bathing opportunities are some of the many attributes of Dominica's tourism programme. These have developed to become the centrepiece of the island's tourism industry.
The industry provides 25% of foreign exchange earnings. In 1998, some 66 969 stay-over visitors arrived on Dominica and spent roughly EC $85 293 360 dollars. Five years before, in 1983, 58 710 stay-over visitors arrived in Dominica and spent $69 908 460 dollars.
Many other non-wood products and services are found in the forests. Most of these have not been commercialized, except of course the Bwa bandé (Richeria grandis), which, can now be found on the supermarket shelves, in the form of teabags. The product has been sold on the overseas market, particularly on the French market since it is believed to be an aphrodisiac. The use of most of the other products has been limited to the home, particularly in rural Dominica. These include a variety of fruits, dyes, spices, leaves, gum (sap), roots, seeds and flowers. Mention has been made in another section of this report on the wild meat aspects of the of Non-wood forest product.
FORESTRY POLICIES, LEGISLATION AND INSTITUTIONS
Dominica's forest policy dates back to 1949 when the Forestry Division was created. It emphasizes a protective function for the forest to include research and education opportunities and the maximization of forest uses.
The forest laws were enacted in 1958 offering much protection to the resource. The supporting rules were passed in 1972. In 1975, the Stewart Hall Water Catchment Rules were passed in 1975. Also in 1975, the National Parks and Protected Areas Act was passed making way for the creation of the Morne Trios Pitons National Park that same year, and in subsequent years, the Cabrits National Park (December 1986) and the Morne Diablotin National Park (January 2000).
Two forest reserves form integral elements of the country's natural resource bank. These include the Northern Forest Reserve (8 800 ha) and the Central Forest Reserve (410 ha). Most forest laws apply strictly to state lands and are not necessarily applicable to private lands until the responsible Minister of government has declared that certain private lands require a particular type of protection. Whilst the laws are far reaching they require modernization to stay in line with developing trends.
Every known contemporary type investment (foreign or local) in the forestry sector has failed. From as early as 1910 to the present, at least five mechanized outfits (relatively small operations) have appeared, to soon disappear, once the hard economic reality of harvesting timber on Dominica set in.
The Division of Forestry, National Parks and Wildlife which comprise a Director and about 25 other staff on the permanent establishment, is the principal advisory body to the government of Dominica on matters of the environment, particularly forest and wildlife. That advisory and advocacy role will be retained for a long time to come. At the moment only one member of staff Who has had the benefit of professional level training. Most of the senior staff has received training at the Diploma level. Given the far-reaching roles of the Division into the medium to long-term, it is necessary to provide some form of professional training for a staff that has performed admirably given its own limitations in formal professional expertise. Such human resource development programme must address the need to developing capabilities in researching and compiling information as are necessary in preparing a country report for workshop of that kind.
Dominica has a small population of Carib Indians, who have been settled on a 1 530.5 ha (3 782 acres) territory on the Windward side of the island. They are mostly agriculturists, growing crops (bananas, coconuts etc.) for the local and foreign market. Dominica's indigenous people are very skilled in craft making, using Larouman reed (Ischnosiphon arouma) and other materials drawn from the forests of Dominica particularly the Carib Territory. Because of the common land tenure situation, land use practices are very intense and often times not very suited for the type of terrain in the Territory. More than 65% of the original forest cover has been removed mostly through the practice of shifting agriculture and harvesting of timber for building canoes. The Gommier (Dacyodes excelsa) is the main species used by the Caribs in boat construction.
Many rivers and springs which served to supply water for domestic use, were affected by the indiscriminate practices in agriculture. As a result, the reliability of the supplies has been negatively affected. This development has not gone unnoticed. A recent effort by the OECS - NRMU to reforest a particular watershed (Crayfish River) in the area met with tremendous response from local leaders. A management plan for the area was developed followed by an initial replanting programme, albeit on a small scale. A larger programme to address the greater part of the problem in that particular watershed and other very critical watershed areas throughout the territory remains outstanding. These situations require urgent attention.
There is also the need to address the issue of sustained management of the larouman reed (Ischnosiphon arouma), which the Carib Indians use in craft making. It is a very important and widely used raw material in the craft industry of the indigenous people of Dominica. The availability of this particular resource in adequate quantities, within the boundaries of the Territory has been a source of concern to the local people. Increasingly, it has become necessary to travel long distances to other forest areas outside of the Territory to source the plant for the material it provides. Some time ago, an effort was made to locate other areas around Dominica where the plant could be found and to begin a study on its biology. There is at present very little information on the status of this plant.
To maintain its image as the "Nature Island of the Caribbean" Dominica would of necessity require protecting as much of its natural state as possible. Even with three National Parks and two Forest Reserves, unless more forested and natural areas are given long term protection as National Parks and Forest Reserves, Dominica will find great difficulty in keeping its nature island image. There are a few large blocks of unallocated state lands with relative potential for agricultural production, which can be added to existing parks and or reserves. There is also the issue of forests which exists on privately owned lands. Current legislation does not permit any intervention by the state on the management of these resources. There is need to address this obvious anomaly giving the state some control over changing the land-use practice of any given area.
The issue of preserving bio-diversity will emerge as a new growth area. Dominica stands to benefit from the tremendous potential associated with species conservation. Increasingly, Dominica has become an attractive area for tropical research from individuals and institutions interested in understanding the dynamics of nature. New areas of interests for research are coming to light. It is therefore necessary to maintain a sufficiently large and undisturbed area for the type of long-term research that will be required to be done.
Many studies have been undertaken of Dominica's natural resources. The different findings however, often times bear little semblance to each other. It is amazing that the same resource base is the target. This is a function of limited research occasioned by dwindling or small budgets. There is need for a rationale, organized and sustained evaluation of the country's natural resource particularly its forests. There cannot be any meaningful development programme for managing the forest resource in Dominica without that kind of work. That effort must first be informed by the findings of the many different studies that have already been undertaken on Dominica. It requires some level of rationalisation.
The Forestry & Wildlife Division will require support to upgrade existing staff to the professional level in other to facilitate more adequate performance of its many functions. That institutional strengthening programme must not only be directed solely at human development which has to be a priority, but must of necessity address the question of adequate working space which is pivotal to quality production.
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F.A.O 1999, Forest Resources Assessment Dominica
Zamore, M 1992. Dominica's Government Forest Estate. management and implications. Forestry & Wildlife Division, Dominica.
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White, A, 1991, Field Document No.2. Implementation of Forest Management Dominica. Forest Volumes estimate. An Examination of the forest volume base for management planning purposes.
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