In a public letter this week, Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei’s administration called the work of our partner communities in the Maya Biosphere Reserve “a model that has allowed the conservation of forests and the biodiversity they house.” The letter goes on to recognize the communities for advancing Guatemala’s national priorities for UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The letter, the first-ever communication from the Giammattei administration on the topic of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, comes on the heels of a public outcry regarding a proposed tourism project that could threaten three of the nine forest communities. After Vice News reported on the tourism plan—along with the news that a bill introduced in US Senate by Sen. James Inhofe (R) would allocate USD$60 million to it—a concerned citizen launched a Change.org petition to defeat the bill, garnering more than 175,000 signatures within a few days.
These communities, our longtime partners, have maintained a near-zero deforestation rate for more than 20 years, which is just one reason Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies calls them a “shining beacon of conservation.” They make a living from the forest sustainably, only harvesting only one tree per hectare every 40 years and creating low-impact businesses from nuts and vegetation gathered from the forest floor. They have even achieved net forest gain in areas that were once degraded. Outmigration from these areas is virtually nil, because local economies thrive.
We encourage you to watch the full Vice News video below, and to sign the petition. While the Rainforest Alliance does not believe, as the petition states, that senators who co-sponsored the bill are “trying to make money off of the local communities and US taxpayers,” we do agree that bill S.3131 should be defeated. We invite you to stand with the communities and sign and share the petition.