From the late 1600’s to the early 1900’s Central America was known for it’s timber production. Many species of timber were harvested during the period including Sapodilla, Santa Maria, Bullet Tree, Carribean Pine, and of course the most valued species of the day, Honduras Mahogany.
In the then British Commonwealth known as British Honduras, (Now Belize), colonies of what were called “Baymen” were strewn throughout the region and harvested timber during the dry season, moving it via slave labor and later oxen into nearby streams and river beds.
The leading edge row of logs were fitted with “boom rings” then chained together across the stream or river on the downstream end which created a barrier to hold the rest of what was harvested.
This gathering of logs in the river were referred to as “booms”. They would be held in the river for upwards of 8 months waiting for the rainy season to arrive which would swell the rivers to an acceptable depth allowing transport of the timber. Imagine the effect that sitting in water for upwards of 8 months had on the buoyancy of hardwood timber as dense as this.
When the rainy season arrived the chains holding the booms were then released and the logs were floated to the coastal harbors and loaded onto waiting ships that freighted the material to Europe.
Furniture, cabinetry, and ship building was the main purpose for the Mahogany while other species were used for structural carpentry, flooring, and situations that called for material that could survive the rigors of outdoor exposure.
In 1997 a study was submitted to the US Forestry Service by Peter L. Weaver and Oswaldo A. Sabido outlining an extensive history of the harvesting and status of Mahogany in Belize. In this study, “Mahogany in Belize: A Historical Perspective”, it is stated, “Experienced loggers estimated that only one-half of harvested mahogany logs were loaded on ships.” This information was gleaned from historical records dating after 1802 when it was deemed consistent seasonal records prior to that time could not be located. This being the case, one needs only to perform the most remedial calculation to figure out there is a substantial quantity of old growth tropical hardwood in Central America that could be recovered and in doing so leave the present stands of growing timber to mature to their original majestic stature.
Once the supply of recoverable material has run it’s course, and the present forests are deemed recovered, a new and effective management campaign of truly sustainable forestry in the rain forest regions of Central America could be embarked upon. It’s almost as if Mother Nature knew what Mankind, being mortal and therefore somewhat shortsighted, was about to do and in turn created a cache of material large enough to sustain our needs while the unfortunate results of past oversights could be healed.