One of the largest and most intact privately owned forest lands in Guatemala is now protected from development. The Nature Conservancy purchased two pristine holdings totaling 77,000 acres in the heart of the Maya Biosphere Reserve last month. The two parcels are in middle of the 500,000-acre Sierra Del Lacandon National Park, home to several endangered species such as puma, jaguar, tapir, anteater, howler monkey, ocelot, scarlet macaw and the Moreletti crocodile, which is unique to this region of Central America…
While Sierra Del Lacandon was declared a national park in 1990, these two pieces of land were owned by private landowners and remained privately held. The two properties, called “Naranjitos I and II,” are some of the most biologically diverse tracts of rainforest in Guatemala. They also contain several Mayan ruins and are home to cenotes — water-filled limestone sink holes that provide unique habitat for species found no where else in the world. The Park encompasses large stands of broad leaf subtropical rainforest, unique geological formations, freshwater lakes, mountain ranges and low-lying savanna plains.
“Sierra Del Lacandon is extremely rich in biodiversity,” said Steve McCormick, president of The Nature Conservancy. “It is important that the Conservancy, working with its local partner, was able to protect these two rich pieces of land for future generations.”
The $2.4 million agreement was reached by The Nature Conservancy and its local partner Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza. Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza will own and manage the land and the Conservancy will assist in a stewardship role. Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza currently manages four national parks in Guatemala.
“The conservation of natural resources and cultural heritage is an obligation to us all,” said Javier Marquez, the director of Sierra Del Lacandón National Park for Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza. “We must continue strengthening the community-based management of the park so that local communities are the principal actors in the protection of their natural resources.”
The Nature Conservancy has helped to conserve biodiversity in Guatemala for the past 16 years. During this time, the Conservancy worked closely with local organizations and in collaboration with communities and the national government.
The park is located within the Maya Forest, a 13.3 million-acre network of pristine forest shared by Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, home to the most significant big cat population in North America, and the largest jaguar habitat outside of the Amazon.
The Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala is approximately 5.2 million acres large. It is a critical centerpiece for maintaining the connectivity of the Maya Forest as well as providing habitat for vast ranges of biodiversity. The Reserve covers a large area once inhabited by the ancient Maya and contains remains of at least 175 Mayan cities. Today, its cultural heritage is a major attraction for tourists and its ecological wealth provides timber and non-timber products that support the local communities.