The Maya Tropical Forest: People, Parks, and Ancient Cities

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Propst Krieger Publishing, pp. Guatecarbon, however, has the support and participation of the local groups managing community forest concessions in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. The project aims to capitalize on the projected 37 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions that will be avoided by preserving the forest over a year period. The group is also working to generate more interest in and demand for wood from more of the ten species of trees extracted in the concessions, beyond the two highest-valued and most in-demand, mahogany Swietenia macrophylla and Spanish cedar Cedrela odorata.

He crosses the glistening hardwood floor.

Pacheco crouches down next to one of the multicolored square patterns inset in the floor. Of the 12 original community forest concessions, three failed. It was very small and the forest had previously been over exploited, he says. Because of that, it generated very little benefits for the people, who gave up and started doing other kinds of activities. In La Colorada, the situation was more complex, and a mix of factors contributed to the cancellation of the concession, says Cuellar. Powerful interests were involved, he says, including narcoganaderos — cattle ranchers tied to drug trafficking and money laundering.

Local leaders were co-opted, land was illegally sold, and outsiders moved into the concession. In the end, everyone in the area was evicted when the concession was canceled.

go to site La Pasadita residents remain in limbo, as their concession has been suspended but not canceled. New local groups are forming and developing proposals for the sustainable management of La Colorada and other areas. Moreover, the conditions that precipitated their failure are not inherent to the entire multi-use zone, and nine community forest concessions remain in good standing. Altogether, Cuellar considers the model to be a success.


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  • The future of the community forest concession model, however, is somewhat up in the air. The Guatecarbon carbon trading initiative has a year time line — assuming it gets off the ground. Community forest concession management plans approved by the government cover 40 years. The concessions themselves, on the other hand, are based on year contracts, and they are set to expire between six and 11 years from now. As it turns out, many of the forces he lists opposing community forest concessions also belong on a list of the main threats to the Maya Biosphere Reserve as a whole: large-scale tourism projects, oil companies, cattle ranching, oil palm plantations, and drug trafficking.

    Communities managing forest concessions and the organizations that represent them are campaigning for government action to ensure the model continues long past the first round of year contracts.

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    Communities lead the way in rainforest conservation in Guatemala. Hansen stared at them in disbelief. The idea that the Maya slowly became more sophisticated was wrong. By morning Tropical Storm Richard had eased, but the sky was still overcast and Hansen was surprised to hear the helicopter arriving out of the clouds. They joined us at the dining hall for a breakfast of eggs, tortillas, beans and fried Spam. He looked like a lanky raccoon. We headed east on a dirt track in two Kawasaki all-terrain vehicles.