Ariel E. Lugo, director of the Forest Service’s International Institute of Tropical Forestry in Puerto Rico, received a U.N. Forest Hero Award for his substantial contributions to forest conservation in the Caribbean and the ability to communicate the importance of conservation to diverse groups of people at all levels.
The winners are selected from major geographical locations from all over the world. As a regional winner of the prestigious award, Lugo was sent to Istanbul at the expense of the U.N. to be recognized at the April 10 ceremony.
“I’m honored to be recognized for my work by the U.N.,” said Lugo. “We in the forestry conservation world don’t get the chance to be acknowledged in such high profile ways very often, so I’m grateful for this opportunity to highlight my work.”
Born in Puerto Rico, Lugo had a fascination with science nearly all his life, leading to a doctorate in plant ecology from the University of North Carolina in 1969. As an active scientist with vast research experience, his current research includes the assessment of the role of tropical forests in global processes and ecological studies of tropical tree plantations.
Lugo has published more than 470 scientific articles and has been consulted on various environmental issues at the local, national and international level. Additionally, he is an editor for various scientific journals including Ecosystems.
He was among the members of the international science community that contributed to theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Scientific Assessment that in 2007 received with Al Gore the Nobel Peace Prize.
Research has been part of the Forest Service mission since the agency’s inception in 1905. Today, more than 500 researchers work in a range of biological, physical, and social science fields to promote sustainable management of the nation’s diverse forests and rangelands.
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $2.7 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.