Monday, September 5

Fundación Pro-Bosque won the prize in the category ¨Forests and Flora¨ in the Green Latin America Prizes

Fundacion Pro Bosque with the project "Restoration of dry forest in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest"  won the prize in the category ¨Forests and Flora¨ on August 25th in the Green Latin America Prizes held in Guayaquil.  A total of 1,407 projects were submitted from twenty five countries including Costa Rica and the USA.  Of these, 500 projects were selected to be presented at the awards which was held over three days and included conferences and other activities via posters and oral presentations.  Of the 500 projects thirty were selected as finalists, three from each category.  There were a total of 57 projects submitted in our category and the three finalists included other projects from Colombia and Peru. 

Tuesday, May 17


The earthquake that hit coastal Ecuador a month ago was felt on a deep level.  The initial shock of being on the third floor balcony of our house and watching transfixed as power poles swung back and forth violently like a giant pulling on the attached cables was quickly gotten over. 

As the true magnitude of the earthquake became known I felt sadness on a visceral level for all the people including friends and families of workers that are suffering the consequences.   Like many people throughout Ecuador we quickly moved to make a collection of funds, clothing, canned goods and especially water to take to the families of staff near the city of Manta in nearby Manabí Province.

Another blow was felt as the situation was taken advantage of to implement increased taxes, docking wages, etc. in so-called solidarity for the affected communities.

With all this in mind, things began to take a rather bleak and dreary appearance.  Taking advantage of a stunningly hot and sunny day and a break from the office, I set out to take a walk into the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest.

As I walked, I searched out the trees that had been planted in tidy rows along the sides of the trail, the trees still fully leafed out before the oncoming seasonal drought causes them to drop their leaves and go into a period of dormancy.  The black clay soils are beginning to crack from the dryness, a few weeks ago this was muddy from the last rain showers.

I paused at the overlook with a view of the forest below me.  A group of Groove-billed Anis Crotophaga sulcrostris called in some nearby bushes and suddenly, one flew to towards me, landing in a flurry of disheveled feathers almost at my feet and eyed me expectantly.  I had no food on me that would attract the bird and have never had anis be so bold before as the bird flew back to the flock that moved on.  I continued my walk and less than 10 paces away suddenly saw a flash of white on the ground near some totem poles a artist has installed to invoke the gods and deities of the ancient indigenous inhabitants of this place. 

A juvenile Gray-backed Hawk Leucopternis occidentalis flew up quickly with something grasped in its talons to a nearby tree.  Without binoculars I could not make out what exactly it had but it seemed to be a large ameiva lizard.  With a ruffling of its feathers it began to pluck at its prey clenched in its talons.  In the same spot a few days earlier I had remarked to a student that it’s been awhile since I have seen any Gray-backed Hawks.  These beautiful raptors, gray above and white below are apparently endemic to Ecuador.  A friend, Hernan Vargas had done his Master´s thesis on the species focusing on Cerro Blanco and the Buenaventura cloud forest to the south of us now protected as a nature reserve by the Jocotoco Foundation. 

Gray-backed Hawks as I explained to the student are most commonly seen flying over the wooded ravines loudly calling where they establish territories and nest.  Hernan had discovered a hawk nest near the final bridge in the Quebrada Canoa or Canoa Ravine and had set up a blind near the nest and with the help of our park guards, monitored the nest.  Hernan decided to climb up to the nest to weigh the single laid egg and unfortunately fell.  The bushes along the edge of the ravine padded his fall.  A few feet further and he would have hit rock and the consequences much worse.  In any case, I was given a scare as we hauled Hernan out to a hospital where X rays confirmed nothing broken, but he suffered some nasty bruises.

Since Herman’s pioneering study, we have tried repeatedly over the years with different donors to obtain funding for a comprehensive study of the Gray-backed Hawks in the Cordillera Chongon Colonche, but so far no one has shown interest.  We offer our park guards a small economic incentive to find hawk nests, which we register with GPS coordinates.  The hawk chick featured at the beginning of this blog entry was recorded with a park guard´s cell phone, citizen science in action.  Gray-backed Hawks have been labeled ¨chicken hawks¨ and are often killed although my own experience with raising chickens in the forest has shown that Collared Forest Falcons Micrastur semitorquatus avidly hunt chickens.

Funding failures aside, the sight of that young hawk, globally listed as an endangered species, gave me hope that despite all the negativities that have been thrown our way recently, Cerro Blanco is here to dazzle and amaze those of us who are awake and watching.

Thursday, April 21

Fundacion Pro-Bosque Emergency Relief Fund

On the evening of Saturday, April 16th coastal Ecuador suffered a massive earthquake of 7.8 on the Richter scale.  Several coastal towns and cities have been devastated with a death toll of at least 570 and rising, 1,500 wounded more than 20,000 people left homeless and a long and difficult path ahead of reconstruction.

The earthquake directly affected some of our foundation´s staff members.  We have moved quickly to gather clothing, bottled water, bed sheets, flashlights and other supplies to take directly to the family members of our staff that have been affected, but this effort can´t stop here and we are requesting support from our friends outside of Ecuador to establish a emergency relief fund to help our staff´s families rebuild their homes and lives.

Any donations large and small are welcome and can be made via the following bank account:

Name of Account: Fundacion Pro Bosque
Account Number #12009151
Banco de Guayaquil
Address: P Ycaza #105 y Pichincha
Guayaquil, Ecuador ECO90150

Friday, April 1

Travels by Eric Horstman

In January I traveled to Yale University to participate in the 22nd Annual Yale International Society of Tropical Forester´s Conference on tropical forests and sustainable development.

I was given the challenge to try and synthesize twenty five years work and experiences in forest restoration in a five minute presentation. The words of Roshi Joan Halifax, a teacher of mine came to the fore, go to the essence, indeed! My presentation on our dry forest restoration work in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest was well received and we have been asked to write up the results of our work for possible submission in a journal put out by the Yale ISTF chapter.

After dipping back into the life of a student by staying with Sumit a Yale Forestry student and even participating in a Friday night pizza party with the forestry club members, I moved on to upstate New York, the Catskills to be exact.

Through a special bird, a Grey Cheeked Parakeet named Tangerine that lived with Cliff and Jane Johnson and enlivened the lives of anyone ¨Tang¨ came in contact with, I was contacted to provide information on the species, which is globally threatened and also finds a home in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest. One thing led to another and Cliff and Jane Johnson and I developed a lasting and enduring friendship much of it maintained by e-mails and phone calls. The Johnson´s have come and visited Cerro Blanco two times and had extended the invitation to visit their bioregion, which I gladly did.

I was put to work so to speak and gave talks at Hearts Home an international Catholic organization that works among many other places in the barrios of Isla Trinitaria, a poor neighborhood in the city of Guayaquil where we are based. We have hosted a visit by Ecuadorian children that were brought to Cerro Blanco and hope to be able to work with Hearts Home in the future to develop a more extensive program that would include overnight camp outs. Taking advantage of the balmy weather of 40 degree or more days I also had the opportunity to visit the Basha Kill Wildlife Management Area ably run by the Basha Kill Area Association.

The Basha Kill includes over 2,000 acres of land that was purchased in 1972 by the State of New York through the Department of
Environment Conservation. Almost 200 species of birds, 30 varieties of fish and many species of plants, reptiles, mammals and insects are found in the area. Our hosts for the visit were Mike and Paula who head up the Basha Kill Area Association. We walked along an old road on the edge of the wetland covered with logs. It was a quiet morning and besides some ducks and Canadian Geese out in the wetland calling, all was quiet. Mike said that a pair of Bald Eagles nest on a small island where a viewing platform has been built to observe the Bald Eagles which have nested every year for several years producing chicks to help bolster the population of this once endangered symbol of the United States.

No eagles were seen on my short visit but it was almost palpable the hidden life that surrounded us waiting to manifest itself as spring came to the area. It was a pleasure to be invited to speak on the night of February 3rd to the members of the Basha Kill Association and be interviewed for an article to appear in their newsletter, The Guardian.
For more information on the Basha Kill Area Association please visit their website at or Facebook page For more information on Hearts Home please go to