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Guatemala Races Against Forest Destruction

Rain Forest Rescue donations are helping Guatemala villagers and conservation organizations in their race against time to protect native forests from clearance for agriculture, roads and new developments.

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More than six-million acres of the Maya Forest is in Guatemala, serving not only as a refuge for rare species of wildlife, but also home to over 100 Mayan archaeological sites. This land is also of immense importance to its residents. Despite this importance, threats of forest destruction are ever-present. Rain Forest Rescue is helping conservationists create new protected areas, monitor forests and wildlife, improve fire management, and increase public and private support.

Here are some of the projects supported by Rain Forest Rescue in 2010:

In the Lowland Forest

  • Forty-four monitoring stations were established in two national parks to monitor migratory birds and analyze their population status. A total of 198 migratory birds from 16 different species and 513 resident birds from 43 different species were captured, analyzed, tagged and released. The information will help assess the impacts of habitat management strategies and help guide future forest management decisions.

  • Knowing where forest fires are being started and land is being cleared is an important step in counteracting these destructive practices. Now remote sensing technology is being used to identify and chart exact locations of these occurrences in the vast Maya Biosphere Reserve. It is an important step toward better protection and for gaining public and governmental support in the way of policies and action.

  • Sierra de Lacandón National Park is 500,000 acres and protects some of the most important tracts of intact tropical forest in Guatemala. Rain Forest Rescue funds last year supported a multi-pronged conservation strategy to engage local communities in protecting the resources of this precious area. For example, a fund was established to provide micro-credit loans to local people seeking to start forest-friendly businesses. Additionally, a tree nursery was established and has already produced 4,600 plants and helped reforest 86 acres of cleared land. Local community members were also involved in fire management activities in the park with seven firefighting brigades established, trained and equipped. As part of community education, some 1,500 environmental education kits were delivered to local schools along with 25 sets of text books, 520 spelling books and four environmental encyclopedias.

A magnificent, resplendant quetzal. Photo © Shane Partridge / bigstockphoto
Blackburn Warbler
A blackburian warbler.
Coffee Farmer
Delicious flavor combined with the retention of forest canopy that is home to birds are just two of the “win-win” reasons to encourage the production of shade-grown coffee. Although the practices protect land, water and wildlife resources, they are less efficient than monoculture production and therefore more expensive. Rain Forest Rescue is helping local conservation organizations find ways to market organic, shade-grown coffee internationally. Photo © Pilar Caballero.

In the Sierra Madre Highlands

Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan.
  • The Sierra Madre Highlands extend 236 miles along southwestern Guatemala. These impressive mountains and volcanoes form the pine-oak and cloud forests, home to rare species like the Horned Guan and resplendent quetzal. The steep slopes are also prone to landslides and floods when the protective forests are removed.

  • To help stabilize de-forested slopes and prevent the recurrence of devastating landslides and flooding, an all-out effort is being made to reforest the land. In the past year, 150,000 plants were produced in two nurseries and 375 critical acres were planted by villagers.

  • Shade-grown, organic certified coffee provides sustainable income for local residents without causing pollution from chemicals and the loss of forest canopy common with traditional coffee farms. The result has been the production of coffee that was ranked among the top 10 in a national tasting competition. Rain Forest Rescue donations have helped support local conservation organizations in developing a marketing plan for the coffee in an effort to encourage the use of the environmentally-friendly but more expensive practices.

  • The backbone of the protected area system in the Sierra Madre Highlands consists of private and municipal reserves. Rain Forest Rescue, in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy and the local Private Natural Reserves Association is helping to expand these reserves and develop appropriate management plans for their sustainable use. A total of 70 private nature reserves have been established or are in the process of being legally declared. In addition, two new municipal parks were established last year and a council of representatives was formed to discuss common concerns and exchange ideas for more effective management.

  • Technical assistance in the form of business plans, operation and accounting manuals and staffing guidelines was provided as two new municipal associations were created to manage their communities’ natural resources. The associations represent 14 communities and impact over 450,000 people. The goal is to implement sustainable development, increase land productivity, expand ecotourism and develop environment and risk management strategies. The overall goal is to improve the management of forests and protect freshwater resources.

View a photo gallery of Guatemalans who are committed to conservation. Restoring and protecting the land in this beautiful country is progressing one tree at a time as men, women and children are assisted with the help of Rain Forest Rescue donations.

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Read more information on our projects in these countries:

Mexico Belize Guatemala

Or read and print the full report on one page.