2012 Rain Forest Rescue Report
The world’s tropical rain forests are the last havens for some of our rarest mammals and birds. They are also home to thousands of plant species with more being discovered every year. The rain forests are also home to indigenous people, such as the descendants of Maya and Aztec cultures that prevailed in the land for centuries.
The key to preserving these precious lands is in finding ways for residents to earn income while living in harmony with the forest. Thanks to Rain Forest Rescue donors, we can report on the successes of this approach in Central America’s Maya Forest.
The Maya Forest stretches across Belize, northern Guatemala and much of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This 13.3 million-acre tropical forest is as biologically rich as any place on earth. Jaguars, scarlet macaws, harpy eagles and howler monkeys thrive in this habitat and thousands of our summer song birds find respite there in the winter.
Much of this land is community-owned by the people that live there. In recent times, income became based on over-extracting the forest’s most valuable trees such as mahogany and Spanish cedar trees. This unmanaged logging - usually conducted by outsiders - as well as the opening of land to farming and grazing, was destructive to the ecological systems of which wild creatures are a voiceless component.
With help from donations to Rain Forest Rescue, The Nature Conservancy and local conservation partners are now making it possible for residents to earn income from the forest without destroying it in the process.
Technical training in forestry, low-impact logging methods, and small-scale milling equipment is being provided to the residents of Bethania and Veinte de Noviembre. Now, instead of middle men taking the best and leaving the worst on the community’s 87,000 acres, trees are carefully selected for sustainable harvests and local people process the logs onsite. The work is labor intensive, but damage to the land is minimized, employment is provided, finished products are sold at higher prices, and larger amounts of money remain in the local economy.
Other Compatible Uses
An array of other uses of the forest are the object of technical training and assistance made possible through Rain Forest Rescue. Here are four examples from the Maya Forest: