Adjunct Professor, The Earth Institute
Ralph Schmidt is an adjunct professor at the Earth Institute of Columbia University, New York, and is also advising a major international reforestation program for Haiti.
Schmidt's work with forests started in 1970 when the Peace Corps sent him to Colombia to work with poor farmers. They were in a tropical forest and that is where he got interested in understanding it better. He then studied forest ecology and economics and received his Masters of Forest Science (1978) from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. His good Spanish got him a research assistant job at the US Forest Service Institute for Tropical Forestry in Puerto Rico, where he learned to identify 300 species of trees. He was soon asked by a friend in the Puerto Rico government to be the head of the Puerto Rico Forest Service. Here he managed a beautiful system of protected areas, as well as tree nurseries and sawmills. After five years at that, he went to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome and worked on forestry projects of all kinds in the developing world. In 1990 he transitioned to United Nations Development Program in New York to continue that work as the Director of their forestry program. He represented UNDP in the Forestry Advisers Group, in the International Forum on Forests and in the Interagency Task Force on Forests with a strong focus on economics and finance of sustainable forest management. Finally, he was CEO of a private company, Candlewood Forest Group, owning 250,000 acres of forest in northwest Argentina. They were the first FSC certified natural forest operation in that country. Along the way, he wrote three reports for the World Bank Inspection Panel, where they carefully examined forest project policies and consequences in Brazil, D.R. Congo, and Cambodia.
Schmidt has abundant experience with the international assistance system as it regards biodiversity and natural resources, and is happy to discuss that with students. In addition to serving as an adjunct professor, he is also advising a major international reforestation program for Haiti.