The Uaxactún (pronounced "wa-shak-toon") Community Forest is located in Guatemala, a country known for its biological and cultural diversity. The community of Uaxactún currently protects about 200,000 acres of rainforest. At the heart of the ancient Mayan civilization, the reserve is home to jaguars, countless species of birds, and an extraordinary diversity of trees, plants, and insects.
The communities in and around Uaxactún live in the forest and have a longstanding agreement with the Guatemalan government: As long as the communities protect the forest, the government must respect the communities’ right to use the forest sustainably. Under this "community concession" system, the people of Uaxactún harvest fruit, medicinal and ornamental plants, chicle (a natural chewing gum), and a limited amount of timber: These activities are conducted under the careful watch of the Guatemalan government, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and a global forest monitoring group called the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Under this long-term management plan, timber is harvested from a different portion of the 200,000-acre forest - 1 tree per acre every 40 years - using small-scale equipment and replanting trees in clearings and along roads. The communities’ low-impact timber harvesting provides jobs as well as resources for health and education. These opportunities in turn have given the communities a long-term stake in protecting the forest. Community-patrols defend the forest from the numerous threats in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, including wildfires, illegal logging and hunting, and in recent years, cattle ranching operations linked to international drug traffickers.
By sourcing from Uaxactún, cities could support this forest-community in its proud tradition of forest protection, while obtaining durable and sustainably -sourced timber. The funds raised through sponsorship would provide the community and its conservation partners with the resources they need to protect the forest for years to come.
Recent articles on rainforest conservation in the Americas:
Aerial view Uaxactún community.
Maya Biosphere Reserve in northern Guatemala. The Uaxactún forest, shown in red, covers the same acreage as NYC's five boroughs combined.
Concept map showing 5,000 acres superimposed on Manhattan. Brooklyn Bridge Forest will protect a rainforest 40 times this size.
A jaguar caught on hidden camera in WCS wildlife research program.