Newswise — The Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups are finalists for the Yale ISTF Forest Finance Innovation Prize for the consortium’s proposed concept to replace the aging promenade of the Brooklyn Bridge with sustainably harvested wood from Guatemala.

The winner of the $5,000 prize—being awarded for the first time by the International Society of Tropical Foresters and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies—will be announced on February 1st at the 20th Annual Yale ISTF conference at the Yale School of Forestry. The Innovation Prize was created to recognize outstanding ideas and concepts in financing of tropical forest conservation.

WCS, the Municipal Art Society, The Natural Areas Conservancy, and Pilot Projects are partners in the Brooklyn Bridge Forest initiative that proposes to link the residents of New York City with the local people of the Uaxactún community forest in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve. The 6-million acre landscape contains jaguars, scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, and a potentially sustainable source of wood for the Brooklyn Bridge promenade, a walkway which permits pedestrians to cross the 130-year-old structure.

If supported by New York City officials, the project will secure contributions from New Yorkers and city visitors for each of the bridge’s 11,000 new planks, to be harvested from Guatemala according to FSC certification standards. The financial endowment raised through plank sponsorship would in turn provide Uaxactún community members with the resources needed to protect forest resources through both research and efforts to prevent illegal hunting and logging. Proceeds would also benefit New York City, specifically supporting increased environmental education efforts and restoration efforts within the 5,000 acres of natural areas located within the city’s five boroughs. These areas include vital wetland and coastal areas that provide protection for local communities against hurricane storm surges.

“We’re thrilled to be finalists for the Forest Finance Innovation Prize,” said Scott Francisco, Founder and Director of Pilot Projects, which originated the Brooklyn Bridge Forest initiative six years ago. “With the Brooklyn Bridge Forest, we’ve found a way to use New York City’s buying power for the greater good. With every plank of hardwood that goes down on the bridge’s promenade, the Uaxactún community can further protect the forest that is so important to them culturally and economically, and to our biosphere.

“With the Brooklyn Bridge Forest initiative, everybody wins,” said John Calvelli, WCS’s Executive Vice President for Public Affairs. “New York City gets its iconic boardwalk sustainably replaced for free; forests in Guatemala are protected; and local communities in New York City receive improved green spaces for recreation and protection from future storms. This kind of global partnership makes sense for everyone.”

About Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit:;; Follow: @thewcs.

About Pilot ProjectsPilot Projects is a design and consulting firm that creates sustainable solutions to complex urban problems. A team of skilled designers, strategists and craftspeople, the firm designs physical spaces, environments and products, and provides a consulting service for organizations looking to improve workplace culture.

About Municipal Art SocietyThe Municipal Art Society is New York’s leading organization dedicated to creating a more livable city. For 120 years, MAS – a nonprofit membership organization – has been committed to promoting New York City’s economic vitality, cultural vibrancy, environmental sustainability and social diversity. Working to protect the best of New York’s existing landscape, MAS encourages visionary design, planning and architecture that promote resilience and the livability of New York.

About Natural Areas ConservancyThe Natural Areas Conservancy exists to restore and conserve the green and blue spaces of New York City in order to enhance the lives of all New Yorkers. A private, not-for-profit group, NAC works with the city Department of Parks and Recreation to protect, restore and manage expansive natural areas already within the city’s urban park system.

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