Cork in itself is recyclable, biodegradable and renewable. In addition, the cork forests provide a valuable habitat for birds and other animals being home to many species, including the wild boar and rare birds such as the Black Stork and the Imperial Eagle. The cork oak also helps protect the soil from erosion, and with almost nothing wasted, each part of the cork tree serves an ecological or economic purpose.
The cork forests of Portugal are a carefully protected resource with strict regulation of the growth and management of the trees.
Currently, Portuguese law bans the cultivation of forest groves on hillsides, uphill from water courses or where tilling may excessively loosen the soil. It is also illegal to harvest the bark on trees less than 25 years old or fell a cork oak other than for essential forest thinning or if the tree is dilapidated from age.
Once mature (> 25 years old), the cork can only be harvested every nine years.
New trees are presently being planted at twice the rate at which the old trees are dying.