International Conservation Cohort Joins National Tree Planting Event in Panama

Lauren Colegrove

Jul 18, 2017

News

  • Panamanian President Varela and Minister of the Environment Sempris (both center) meet with staff from Rainforest Trust, ADOPTA and ICFC. Photo courtesy of Rainforest Trust.

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela alongside the Minister of the Environment Emilio Sempris commenced the 3rd annual national tree planting event held at Cerro Galera, Nuevo Arraijan in Panama on June 24. Thousands of volunteers and a variety of conservation groups including Rainforest Trust staff and local partner Asociación Adopta el Bosque Panamá (ADOPTA) joined the government officials in the reforestation efforts.

After giving a speech about the value of forest conservation and regeneration, President Varela spoke exclusively with staff from Rainforest Trust, ADOPTA and Rainforest Trust’s Canadian partner International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) about the importance of watersheds in Panama, especially those around the Panama Canal.

“Protecting the rainforests around the Panama Canal is very important, not just for the functioning of the Panama Canal but also for drinking water for the people of Panama City and Colon,” said President Varela.

The conservation non-profit organizations also had the opportunity to discuss with President Varela another environment in Panama that is a critical watershed for its surrounding villages: the Cerro Chucanti mountain on the border of the Darien region. In addition to providing a year-round supply of fresh water, the forests also contain numerous rare animals and plants found nowhere else on Earth. There have been many discoveries of species new to science at this irreplaceable site, including salamanders, frogs, snakes and numerous vascular plants.

Despite their vital ecosystem services and incredible biodiversity, the rainforests in Cerro Chucantí are under significant threat from deforestation due to cattle ranching. To protect this site, ADOPTA partnered with Rainforest Trust and ICFC to expand the nature reserve by 170 acres earlier this year, bringing its total to about 1,853 acres.

  • ADOPTA, Rainforest Trust and ICFC are working to halt deforestation on Cerro Chucanti. Photo courtesy of Rainforest Trust.

“We are excited to explore the opportunity for the potential designation of a large government protected area to provide permanent refuge for the region’s newly discovered and endangered wildlife,” said Guido Berguido, the Executive Director of ADOPTA.

“Establishing a national reforestation day, and committing to reforest one million acres by 2025, demonstrates a clear political understanding of the importance of forest conservation,” said James Lewis, Director of Conservation Programs at Rainforest Trust.

“It’s very exciting to see this great, countrywide initiative, and we are looking forward to seeing how conservation efforts around Chucantí will progress in the coming years.”