Logging threatens Mayan ruins, forest in Guatemala
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
November 13, 2005
In the tropical forests of Guatemala, poor rural farmers and loggers are battling environmentalists, archaeologists, and Mel Gibson over the establishment of a 525,000-acre Mayan national park, according to an article in this weekend's edition of The Wall Street Journal.
After initial winning the go-ahead on the park project in 2002 from then-president Alfonso Portillo, Hansen's efforts have been undermined by local villages who have garnered support from current president, Oscar Berger, in opposing the deal. According to the Journal, government officials have told Hansen to stay out of local affairs.
In response, Hansen has now enlisted Hollywood A-lister, Mel Gibson, in the Mayan park project. Earlier this year, the star actor visited el Mirador to evaluate the site his new action movie -- "Apocalypto" -- shot entirely in an ancient Mayan tongue. Further, Gibson has donated $500,000 towards Mr. Hansen's work at Mirador and agreed to serve on the board of Mr. Hansen's foundation and be a spokesman for the project. Despite the actor's popularity in Latin America with last year's "The Passion of the Christ," his efforts will be facing strong opposition from locals who see can see little value from the establishment of the park.
Forest clearing. Photo by R. Butler
Guatemala's rural population is among the poorest in Central America. As such, people's day to day survival is dependent upon natural resource use. Most rural Guatemalans have few employment options; they must live off the land that surrounds them making use of whatever resources they can find. Their poverty and relative lack of opportunity means the country's forests are falling at one of the highest rates in Latin America. Official figures show that around 80,000 hectares are deforested annually, though some organizations say the figure may be closer to 95,000 hectares -- or 3% of the country's forests -- per year. Not even national parks are safe. Recent surveys have found extensive illegal logging in The Mayan Biosphere Reserve and the Laguna del Tigre national park.
The continuing loss of Guatemala's forests could prove costly for the country. New research suggests that the great Mayan civilization of the past was done in by a familiar problem: deforestation.
This article used information from "In Guatemala, A Battle Over Logs And a Lost Kingdom" a November 12th, 2005 article by BOB DAVIS, Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.