Spring 2007 Report
Saving the world’s rain forests is something everyone can take part in. Since 1992, caring individuals have been making a positive difference in these fragile regions through the Arbor Day Foundation’s Rain Forest Rescue® Program.
Thanks to the Foundation’s members and friends, cooperative work with The Nature Conservancy to conserve endangered land in the Maya Forest has been possible.
Since the founding of Rain Forest Rescue, more than two billion square feet of land has been preserved, and we continue to make positive impacts in the area…for the people who call it their home, for the precious birds and animals that live there, for the diverse species of plants and trees, and for the health of our planet.
This vast forest is second in size to the Amazon, covering over 13 million acres in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. Conservation brings hope to this delicate region to ensure it remains as large in size and vibrant in life as it is now. Hope of sustainability lies in conserving the forest as an entire ecological system, which means various methods of conservation are needed and have already been put into action by the efforts of concerned world citizens like our members.
Plan for Conservation
The generous support of Arbor Day Foundation members has helped create a regional plan to reach the Forest's conservation goals. This plan will maintain biodiversity and protect the fragile areas of the Maya Forest deemed most in need of aid. Together, we have already made a remarkable difference in the area by implementing various efforts, including:
- Providing education and support to Mayan community members on sustainable farming and ranching activities
- Planning efficient use of the land
- Creating nature-based tourism projects
- Managing sustainable timber
- Developing conservation finance plans
- Protecting more acres in the region while supporting the wildlife
These significant strides have had a tremendous impact on the quality of life in the Maya Forest.
Conservation is off to a good start, but expansion in this area is only beginning. Specifically in the Mexican region of the Mayan Forest, conservation efforts focus on the hopes to purchase an additional 212, 292 acres in the region. This large amount of forest would be added to the existing 370,000 protected forested acres of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, which consists of roughly 1.8 million total acres.
A primary motivation behind the conservation is to help combat global warming because of trees’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide. Arbor Day Foundation members’ contributions have helped purchase a total of nearly 600,000 acres of tropical forest, specifically of the Hopelchen Tract, where development of an Integrated Fire Management Plan to offset the threat of fires is underway. Within the plan, communities will be trained in agriculture practices that exclude the use of fire. Fire brigades are also being established to protect these areas if a fire were ever to burn out of control.
Señor Juan de Dios Estrella Cahuich has learned forestry and marketing practices that enable his community (ejido) within the buffer zone of Mexico’s Calakmul Biosphere Reserve to profitably and sustainably harvest trees without damaging the forest. Rain Forest Rescue funds helped with educational programs, a new bridge essential for best management practices, and travel expenses so local residents could observe sound practices used in other ejidos. Sr. Cahuich and his neighbors ar currently applying for SmartWood Certification, the global standard for responsible forestry.
With support from the Foundation’s members, the Rain Forest Rescue program is also helping create economic incentives to community members in the Maya Forest region. This active pursuit of conservation-themed tourism encourages preservation of the land and creates economic sustainability. Recently, 14 youth of the Calakmul Biosphere were trained as nature guides through a challenging, 500-hour naturalist course. This training has helped instill appreciation for nature and the importance of environmental stewardship in Mayan youth at an early age. These young nature guides now provide a valuable service to visitors from around the world, and they are able to make nature an integral part of ancient civilization tours. Local communities are also pursuing and encouraging other programs like best forestry practices, education, and earth-friendly businesses.
In Belize, tropical forests cover 80 percent of the country. The Arbor Day Foundation’s support focuses on conservation efforts in the Maya Forest that are taking place on the Rio Bravo priority site and in the Maya Mountains. A positive impact has already been made on the region through the help of the Foundation’s friends and members.
To help establish sound forest practices, a National Fire Management Policy was developed for the National Forest Department to provide extensive training for forest managers and park guards. Combating such threats to conservation efforts as uncontrolled fires, illegal hunting, extraction of forest products, and advancing agricultural practices are a focus of these forest management activities.
Ongoing research, supported by the Foundation’s members, is now being used to improve the management of protected areas. The Maya Mountains complex, which spans nearly 1.2 million acres across Belize, is one area that is in need of immediate conservation. This once unspoiled forest is being threatened by such dangers as illegal hunting, extraction of forest products, and uncontrolled fires. Arbor Day Foundation support for efforts in this region has helped to more than double the acreage that is currently being managed effectively. Conservation efforts are also focused on consolidating many of the reserves within the Maya Mountains complex. Much as our important work is making an immediate difference today, ongoing research will continue to identify new ways that we’ll make a difference tomorrow.
Within Guatemala, the Maya Biosphere Reserve spans about 5.2 million acres. This area covers land that was long ago settled by indigenous citizens in at least 175 Mayan cities. Tourism provides income to the area, and sales of timber and non-timber products also help to support the local communities. Through our member support, the Arbor Day Foundation’s Rain Forest Rescue program has been making a difference in this country for the past 14 years.
Thanks to Arbor Day Foundation supporters, important work within the local communities and the national government of Guatemala is helping to conserve the Maya Biosphere Reserve through establishment of a Conservation Trust Fund. Also, Arbor Day Foundation members’ contributions helped purchase two central pieces of land, totaling 77,000 acres, which are critical to the overall connection of the Sierra del Lacandón National Park in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. The goal is to now raise two million dollars in order to establish an endowment for funding long-term conservation in the region.