Bosque El Imposible, El Salvador

Help Save El Salvador's Last Expanse of Rainforest

Tiny El Salvador has the highest population density (245 people per square kilometer) and the smallest amount of primary forest remaining (about 2%) in all of Latin America. Much of the country is intensely farmed, even on its steepest slopes.

Because of it size and biological diversity, Bosque El Imposible National Park is considered the most important natural area of El Salvador. Located in the department of Ahuachapan, El Imposible contains a highly threatened dry tropical forest that forms part of the coastal mountain range Apaneca-Ilmatepec. The 9,000 acre forest ranges from 900 feet to 4,300 feet above sea level and is home to the country's most crystalline water. Bosque El Imposible's unique topography lends a splendid beauty to this refuge. More than 500 species of birds live there, including the great curassow, king vulture and turquoised-browed motmot. Ocelots are also found in Bosque El Imposible. Traders from Guatemala used to travel to El Salvador's markets through this forest, carefully leading their mules through the steep "Impossible Pass," from which the park takes its name.

Though conservationists have managed to stop an illegal road from being built in the area and are having some success at controlling unlawful hunting and firewood gathering, the park is surrounded by coffee farms that are nibbling away at the park's borders. Some of these farms are being converted from traditional growing techniques that maintain canopy cover to more environmentally destructive farming methods that usually involve clear-cutting the forest to create sunny plantations.

The Rainforest Alliance is working with SalvaNATURA and the Ecological Foundation of El Salvador, a young citizens' group with more than 50 active volunteers, to help to save El Impossible. SalvaNATURA has been managing the park since 1991 and saving El Imposible is the group's highest priority. In addition to buying key habitat to add to the rainforest, SalvaNATURA is working with local residents to promote shade-grown coffee plantations as an alternative to hunting and fishing. This traditional technique maintains forest cover and provides a home to wildlife (especially birds) while simultaneously increasing the income of local farmers. Coffee harvested from farms that have met the Rainforest Alliance's Conservation Agriculture Program standards is sold under the Rainforest Alliance Certified label.

Bosque El Imposible National Park is one of the last remaining remnants of El Salvador's original forests. More land needs to be purchased or maintained by private landowners as forest. If a forest is too small, there is little hope to protect its plants and animals. This forest is El Salvador's hope for the future. If SalvaNATURA can add habitat to the park and work with landowners to restore eroded land outside El Imposible's borders, then the country's wildlife will face a more certain future.

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