A new management plan is providing a blueprint to not only halt but also reverse the destruction of Laguna del Tigre, Guatemala's largest national park and one of the most critical ecosystems in the Mesoamerica Hotspot.
The plan, approved by Guatemala's National Council of Protected Areas, is providing hope in a region long under intense pressure from competing land-use interests.
Despite protection since 1990 and a previous plan, the 335,080-hectare park "continues to be one of the most threatened ecosystems in Mesoamerica," said Roan Balas McNab, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Guatemala operations.
The plan addresses land-tenure issues and threats, such as migration, cattle ranching, and drug trafficking that led to a near collapse of law and order in the region. New steps include increased presence and protection efforts involving an alliance of government and civil society.
With support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, WCS helped the national agency develop the new plan at an opportune time as government interest was high for curbing lawlessness in the park, which borders Mexico and had become a national security concern.
Building consensus among stakeholders – from President Óscar Berger Perdomo to Guatemala’s Institute of Anthropology and History to local communities – was an integral part of the approach.
Located in Guatemala's Petén Department, Laguna del Tigre lies at the heart of the nation's Maya Biosphere Reserve. The park's lowland forest area also includes Central America's largest protected wetland.
The challenges to effective protection remain large. If successful, however, the plan will play a vital role in securing the park’s future and could become a model for other parks in peril.
The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a global program that provides grants to nongovernmental organizations and other private sector partners to protect Earth’s biologically richest and most endangered areas. As one of the founders, CI administers the program. The other partners are the French Development Agency, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank.
Read about another CEPF wetlands project: In Madagascar, Pioneering a New Model for Conservation.