A typical cork forest is a mixture of woodlands and scrub growth, supporting a wide range of plant and animal life. Many cork forests are thousands of years old, and are used for agriculture, forestry, grazing, hunting and other uses. These forests are usually spread over large areas with little human impact apart from those who grow and harvest the cork.
Our goal at Cork Supply is to be responsible stewards of these lands. We know that well-managed cork forests provide many valuable environmental functions, including conserving soil, buffering against climate change, recharging the water table and controlling runoff. They also provide a livelihood for local residents and a habitat for native wildlife, both of which are protected in our forest management practices.
Protecting the Montado
Southern Portugal is home to "montado" regions — delicately-balanced ecosystems that include more cork forests than anywhere else on earth (1.8 million acres). These montado forests produce over 50% of the world's cork, and for centuries received legal protection to ensure a strong cork industry. Special practices emerged as a result, including selective thinning and low density cultivation, which helped Portugal's cork forests become recognized as the best kept in the world.
Cork oaks can grow to heights of over 80 feet and live for up to 300 years, in part due to the unique bark that protects them from winter freezes as well as frequent summer fires. This bark is the material used to create the entire array of natural cork products. The trees' long life cycle and special bark have ensured environmental sustainability as well as a livelihood for generations of local residents who hand-strip the bark from each tree every nine years, using great care to prevent damage. The fragile montado has become a true home for these people, who appreciate how much the cork oak has to offer beyond cork. They hunt wildlife in its forests, collect honey from its hives, eat mushrooms that grow at its foot, burn its wood for warmth and feed its acorns to their animals. These residents know that their future — and the future of their children and grandchildren — depends not only on harvesting cork, but on protecting the diverse environment of the montado itself.
Protecting the montado and preserving its residents' way of life is more than our priority at Cork Supply; it is our passion. It is evident in every decision we make, every practice we put into place, every relationship we build. Because there's more than just cork at stake in these delicate ecosystems. Much more.