Paths to Sustaining Forests and Communities in Guatemala's Maya Reserve

Related GLP Member: Beth Tellman

In Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve, the largest intact tract of tropical forest in the Americas north of the Amazon, two conflicting visions of the future appear on a collision course. One is a time-tested system of forest and land management built from the community up over more than 20 years, with selective logging boosting incomes for the roughly 180,000 people living in the region without reducing forest biodiversity.

A string of independent studies has shown the system sustains biodiversity and also has resisted a surrounding surge of deforestation and burning significantly driven by drug trafficking.

The other vision is an ambitious harder-edged forest protection strategy that would limit community rights but substitute, in theory at least, a tourism-centered economic future built around an archeologist’s decades-old vision of a travelers’ paradise around the region’s stunning Mayan ruins.

In this Sustain What Friday media review, we explore two recent stories raising questions about the grand park development plan, which has the support of several powerful U.S. senators. And we’ll hear fresh evidence pointing to the conservation success in the community forest concessions.

The journalists:

Julia Lindau of Vice News

Her June video report: Mayan Ruins in Guatemala Could Become a U.S.-Funded Tourist Attraction:

Longtime journalist and author Fred Pearce

His June Yale E360 story: Parks vs. People: In Guatemala, Communities Take Best Care of the Forest

You’ll also meet three experts on the region:

Iliana Monterroso, scientist and co-coordinator of Gender and Social Inclusion Research with Center of International Forestry Research at CIFOR, the Center for International Forest Research. She has studied community forest management in the Peten region for more than 20 years.

Beth Tellman, a human-environmental geographer and researcher at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. She is also co-author of a recent peer-reviewed study, Illicit Drivers of Land Use Change: Narcotrafficking and Forest Loss in Central America.

The paper:

Mark Moroge, director for Latin America of the Rainforest Alliance

A recent Rainforest Alliance update: