Guatemala Takes Steps to Protect Forests

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Maya Biosphere Reserve in Petén

By: Abby Belongy

Guatemala has several social, political, and economic issues to deal with, but the country also has an abundance of natural resources worth protecting.  According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Guatemala is one of the most ecologically diverse nations on the planet.  In the Americas, its forests are second only to the Amazon.  The important ecological regions of the country face common environmental problems such as deforestation, contamination, and climate change.

To combat these threats, Guatemala has teamed up with USAID in its Country Development and Cooperation Strategy (CDCS).  The plan is to use marketing and management strategies to promote conservation, increase the defense against climate change, and strengthen environmental governance.

The Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) and the Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve (SMBR) are considered important natural areas to continue protecting.  In addition to reducing forestation, the CDCS focuses on preserving habitats for scarlet macaws, monkeys, and jaguars in these regions.  Guatemala has the highest density of Jaguars in the world.  The nation also places an emphasis on reducing emissions as the best and most cost-effective way to positively impact climate change.

Efforts have also come from forest conservation groups created by citizens.  The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) awarded one of two Sasakawa Prizes to the Asociación Forestal Integral San Andrés in 2011.  The group focuses on both environmental and economic benefits, as they preserve the forest, especially the MBR, and also control the extraction of xate, a huge export for Guatemala.

While it seems Guatemala is taking strides in the right direction to protect its ecological haven, the nation needs to focus even more on the environmental efforts.  Many of Guatemala’s indigenous population lives off the forest and depends on it for shelter and survival, so the issue reaches far past ecology.  With corruption and major problems, such as poverty and drug trafficking, hitting Guatemala, the government can get preoccupied.  However, working with USAID is a good first step, and all plans must be continued and executed.

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