Timber “Thief,”_Macaya Biosphere Reserve, Gran Plenn, Haiti, 2008
Timber cutters have worked the high reaches of Haiti’s culturally and biologically rich, Massif de la Hotte for many generations. The creation of an unfunded national park in the area some 20 years ago has done little to alter long-standing patterns of extraction and environmentality, although the project’s criminalization of certain livelihood practices has produced new frictions in mountain communities and altered the shape of the region’s political ecology. My work in Haiti seeks to untangle this dynamic political ecology. Timber harvesting in southwestern Haiti is carried out by small teams of cutters, who, often equipped with only hand-forged tools, can take a month or more to reduce a tree to boards. The rough-sawn boards are then carried one-at-a-time more than 20 km to collection sites at lower elevations where they are loaded onto trucks for shipment to lumber markets in Port au Prince and other urban centers. Although frequently targets of blame and derision, such non-intensive forms of extraction actually contribute little to Haiti’s ecological crisis, which has long historical, political and socio-economic roots, stretching far beyond the borders of Haiti itself.