Environmental Protection

Approximately 80,000 Acres of Guatemala Forest Protected

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and partners signed an agreement this month that will safeguard some 80,000 acres of intact forest in Guatemala in the heart of the sprawling Maya Biosphere Reserve. Home to jaguars, macaws, pumas and various wildlife, the protected land will continue to serve as a safe haven to all inhabitants.

Carmelita Cooperative, the Carmelita Community Development Council, PACUNAM, and Asociación BALAM with the support of the Guatemalan Protected Areas Council, the Association of Forest Communities of Peten (ACOFOP), Rainforest Alliance, and Foundation Albert II of Monaco all took part in signing the agreement to save the Guatemala forest.

Signed on March 9, the agreement will help reduce deforestation and degradation of the region while providing education, health, and fire prevention measures for the community of Carmelita. The community is located in the center of the reserve at the gateway of the renowned archaeological site of El Mirador. The agreement includes the enforcement of bans on hunting of jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay, tapir, howler monkey, spider monkey, scarlet macaw, ocellated turkey, harpy eagle, and other endangered wildlife.

In the past few decades, the Maya Biosphere Reserve has faced growing threats from human activities including illegal logging, slash and burn agriculture, and ranching in protected areas, along with drug trafficking, poaching, and looting of Maya artifacts.

In 2009, WCS and Conservation International (CI) formed a partnership with Guatemala`s Protected Areas Council in order to implement Guatemala’s first community-based conservation incentives payment system. Known as “Conservation Agreements,” it provided a clear contract between local communities, the Guatemalan government, NGO partners, and donors to help stem deforestation and provide annual economic incentives designed and managed by local communities.

The Carmelita agreement is the third such agreement in the Maya Biosphere Reserve with other successful examples in the Uaxactun Community Forest Concession and the community of Paso Caballos in Laguna del Tigre National Park.

“Conservation Agreements are a win-win for both the people and wildlife of the Maya Biosphere Reserve,” said Julie Kunen, Director of WCS’s Latin America and Caribbean Program. “The agreements address pressing development needs and provide real incentives for the people living in and around the reserve to protect its animals and conserve its forests.”

Spanning nearly five million acres, the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Petén, Guatemala is home to not only some of the world’s most important archaeological sites but also diverse ecosystems with a vast array of flora and fauna.

WCS has worked in the Maya Biosphere Reserve for the past two decades. It has established a legacy of improving the management effectiveness and economic sustainability of core protected zones and multiple-use zone forest concessions that are co-administered by communities and the Guatemalan National Protected Areas Council. WCS’s work in this region has been made possible through the generous support of The Prospect Hill Foundation, the Governance and Transparency Fund of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and other key supporters.

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