ake a nice warm south seas country like Fiji; experiment with soft and
hardwood seedlings from all over the world; find a tree like Caribbean
pine that flourishes like crazy in the dry areas of Fiji; start planting
in 1960 – and presto – you have a forest industry with a
15 year rotation to a 56 to 61 centimeter dbh Fiji pine by 1980!
....Well of course you add in some intelligent
direction; some determination to find a better economy; the backing
of government, business and landowners – plus the downright niceness
of the Fijian people and you have yourself a thriving forest industry.
....How did this inlet logger tumble onto
such a remarkable event? I’m glad you asked. No, my editor did
not send me on such an assignment. I stumbled on it while winterizing
myself and family in that charming island group. Where everyone you
meet says – “bula” – welcome. And they mean
....I had heard my young traveling friend,
David Cartwright, speak of Pinus Caibica in connection with his trips
to the new softwood forests of Brazil and I was fascinated by his stories
of 10 to 15 year rotation and “foxtails” on the odd pines
that grow so fast they don’t have time to sprout branches.
....For those of you readers unlucky enough
not to have been there – Fiji lies about 18 degrees latitude and
the International Date Line runs through the islands. As I look at my
watch here in British Columbia, Fiji time is 20 hours ahead of us. The
Fiji Times, a tabloid style of newspaper, bills itself – The First
Paper Printed In The World Today.
....There are hundreds of islands in the
Fiji group with Vanua Levu and Vita Levu the largest, and the latter
also the most populated. The total population of the island group is
near 600,000, made up of about half original Fijians and half East Indians.
....As this is a forestry magazine, dedicated
to a conservative subject such as trees – I shall not bore you
descriptions of the fantastic coral beaches, the swaying coconut palms,
the warm ocean waters, the snorkeling on the reefs midst a million multi-colored
fish. No sir, I shall not say a word about such things. As they say,
we’ll stick to the facts, man – just the facts!
....And the main fact is that this beautiful
little country has, in 20 years, entered the softwood forest products
world. The rolling hills of the dry parts of the two largest islands
are now a sea of green pines. – where 20 years ago there was only
....After viewing the Fiji pine forests
near Nadi, I called the office of the Fiji Pine Commission in Tautoka
and made a date to come over and talk to Mark Calhoon, their information
officer. Mark is an ex-peace corps officer from the Chicago area who
stayed on in the islands when he saw the pine explosion. He was most
generous with his time and gave me a good briefing on this more or less
– instant forest.
....Sugar has been the islands’ biggest
industry since way back. It was the sugar harvesting and manufacturing
that brought the East Indian people to Fiji. They have also become the
the drier areas of the islands and just about anything will grow in
their well-looked-after farms.
....It was the vast areas of grasslands
that triggered the idea that forests could be planted and thereby someday
help the economy. In the years 1955 to 1960, many hundreds of seeds
were tested in plots and the Caribbean pine was selected as being the
best for such lands. This pine, originally grown in British Honduras
and some Caribbean islands, has an exceptionally strong root system
to withstand heavy winds and hurricanes.
....By 1960, planting was under way, with
particular help in forestry matters and finance from New Zealand and
also from Australian sources. A few years ago, the Fiji Pine Commission
was formed to administer the forest lands. This group would sort of
cor-respond with our Crown corpor-ations, with businessmen, landowners
and government people making up the board of directors.
The general plan is that about 61,000 hectares will be planted by 1986
– half this amount is now thriving. Consultants from many countries
have assisted the Fijian forest project and