| Marchers demand that the Sierra Santa Cruz be protected.
|Endangered Black Howlers are found in the Sierra Santa Cruz.
© Dave Johnson
|Members of 11 communities participated in the march.
December 3, 2014
On November 22, local residents and representatives of community organizations in Guatemala’s Sierra Santa Cruz Mountain Range staged a 25-mile march to bring attention to threats facing the area and demand its legal protection. Over 200 people, representing 11 communities, participated in the march.
Located near Guatemala’s Caribbean Coast, the Sierra Santa Cruz Mountain Range is situated in one of Central America’s most biodiverse areas. However, the range is increasingly threatened by expanding cattle ranches and oil palm plantations.
Marchers view the protection of the Sierra Santa Cruz as a critically important issue with wide ranging impacts on their daily lives. The range, which is the last forested mountain range in the Guatemalan state of Izabal, holds critical watersheds that provide water for surrounding villages. Local communities also recognize the degree to which the intact forest positively impacts their livelihoods and see its protection as key to maintaining and improving their quality of life.
To help protect the Sierra Santa Cruz, Rainforest Trust is working with Guatemalan partner FUNDAECO to create a 142,646-acre reserve. The reserve will conserve habitat for Jaguars, Baird’s Tapir and other endangered wildlife species fighting for survival.
“This important effort among local communities, organizations, and conservationists will help avoid the rapid degradation of their resources and livelihoods,” said Marco Cerezo, Director of FUNDAECO (Foundation for Eco Development and Conservation). “It will also support the fight against poverty and the protection of forests and biodiversity in Guatemala, a region that is a vital link in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor”
Although comprising only a fraction of Guatemala, the biologically rich mountains and coastal plains surrounding its Caribbean coast contain nearly half the country’s total species. Creating a protected area in the Sierra Santa Cruz will fill an important conservation gap in the Guatemala’s Caribbean Rainforest Corridor, which is a crucial link in the larger Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.
“Local communities have demonstrated a phenomenal commitment and desire to protect the Sierra Santa Cruz,” said Christine Hodgdon, International Conservation Manager for Rainforest Trust. “We are excited to play a role in helping these communities protect the wildlife and resources that are so valuable to them.”
A declaration by Guatemala’s National Congress to designate the Sierra Santa Cruz as a National Protected Area will ensure key protection and management activities within the reserve, including protection and surveillance of core areas; participatory landscape planning for the sustainable development of communities; and outreach activities like environmental education and sustainable agro forestry in participating communities.
Organizers are planning a second march in the future.
To learn more and help protect the Sierra Santa Cruz, visit our project page.