I just received more disheartening news from Roan McNab on the situation in the Peten. His full letter can be found by clicking MORE below.
And based on a comment in his letter I am looking into the PROARCA program of USAID which is putting money into preserving the Usumacinta watershed. I'll put links I find below:
...work will support Central American countries' efforts to monitor and protect key watersheds, among these the Usumacinta border area watershed between Guatemala and Mexico
Principal Contractors, Grantees, or Agencies: Key partners include: a consortium formed by The Nature Conservancy (prime), the World Wildlife Foundation (sub), and Rainforest Alliance (sub), for activities to improve management of protected areas and to promote market access for environmentally sound products and services; Associates in Rural Development, Inc., for promotion of less polluting technologies to municipalities and private sector industries; and a grant to SICA and the Central American Council for Environmental Development (CCAD) to strengthen environmental management in the region. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a collaborating agency that supports work on the legal and regulatory frameworks. A planned cooperative agreement will provide subgrants to Central American organizations collaborating under PROARCA.
I regret to inform you that it appears the situation in and around
Macabilero is hot again. In Sept armed Mexican loggers entered into a
shootout with SEPRONA and Army personnel sent to patrol the park. Young
man Joe Soto, the student developing the Jag survey, had found the area
full of xateros from Mex and Gua, and rumors of well armed dudes.
Apparently the Defensores (FDN) were not aware (?), as they had not
mentioned any of these problems when we proposed staking out $10K of
cameras on trees in the area. Now, a shootout and confrontations later,
we are left in the position where FDN proposed Soto keep working there,
getting rides into the area with the army on the FDN boat, and that he then stay there alone. We know only temporary accompanyment by law enforcement people will leave our guys very exposed, and more, what would illegal dudes think of the cameras. I am frankly a wee bit molesto that FDN has not heeded Soto's wishes, they are investing very little in the study, and certainly not their life, as Soto would be. He is the only one of them all who has been spending much time there in the field. He feels unsafe, so I respect that. So, unfortunately WCS will not be sending cameras there unless something changes fast.
I want to keep on with a study in the Macabilero area. But it needs to
be controlled first, and indeed because as Laguna del Tigre, the heart
of Lacandon is now becoming ingovernable, my hope is that the
cancellation of this investigation in the area will serve as a wake up
call. I for one am ready to pressure for more investment in protection,
but these monies were only for studying Jaguars. WCS can not play the
role of patroller in Lacandon, that is the place of FDN. In most places,
the current level of "protection" in "Protected Areas" is rediculous. No
wonder they fare poorly. How could they be expected to perform well? Six
guards for all of the forest of Calakmul, for example. Not even in the
US, where the standard of living is "high" do Nat Res officers go unarmed, and without the resources to reach the remote parts of their site. Lacandon, and the FDN then, need support to attain the number of guards, and the additional resources that make the protection of the park viable. A model exists in terms of guards and investment per
hectare....Tikal. And since the income for Lacandon and the saveable
part of Laguna del Tigre will not come from tourism as in Tikal, the
answer that seems most viable, and the only "permanent solution" lurking
anywhere within grasp is Trust Funds. Endowments for the parks.
My take on the Maya Forest is that unless something happens soon it will
continue to shrink and the world will awake too late after much has been
lost. To save it from the Guatemalan side, we need to hold the fort in
Lacandon, save the east of Laguna del Tigre, ensure the forest
concessions are well managed, and protect the north eastern part of the
Biosphere, Rio Azul, from an international road. The IDB seems to be
quite discombobulated in their planning for the Mundo Maya roads, and
other things. Many mistakes, and tremendous amounts of money spent
already. This is documentary material, bad planning, bad loans,
deception, ineptitude, and the vicious cycle of debt.... I have IDB docs
recently released which claim that they have consulted the communty of Uaxactun about the plans...I showed these docs to people, leaders, in Uaxactun and watched their faces melt first, then swell with anger as they read the name "Uaxactun" on a list of "Communities Consulted", and later in the doc, when they saw plans for Q44 million invested as a loan to the Guatemalan people to pave the 23 KM from Tikal to Uaxactun...and then the Q.5,500,000 for a "visitor's center" in the heart of the
village...concrete bastardass fake maya temples of the most gut-emptying
design...I have photos too.
Add to that all of the IDBs support now thrown behind the Hansen
proposal in Mirador ($450K first installment), and one has to wonder
what the big IDB plan is.
Word is that Proarca- the regional AID project, or perhaps a trilateral
US Gua Mex project of AID will soon be preparing plans to invest some $1
million in the Usumacinta cuenca. I asked why. No real response. By the
way, have you seen the fotos from Tropicoverde of the powerlines being
put in through La Cojolita on the Mex side of Lacandon?
It seems like more people willing to be proactive on behalf of the Maya
Forest in the US could help. Perhaps of all the Maya Forest, Guatemala
is the weakest link (outside of Mexican Chiapas which seems like a even
more complex situation). In Guatemala, groups are forming and people
joining hands. These exists a group of institutions and people currently
fighting to save the macaw nesting areas in Laguna del Tigre, perhaps
the last good section of that park that can be saved. This is being done under the threat of PNLdT being delisted from RAMSAR. I personally find such a threat from RAMSAR a good thing. RAMSAR is pissed that Guatemala has not lived up to its word after signing the convention, and applying
for/receiving Ramsar designation for LdT, the largest freshwater wetland
in Mesoamerica. In the Central Maya Biosphere area there is a group
forming to monitor the moves of the IDB, and inform all in the area of
the information, and misinformation, that exists. Then there is ACOFOP,
dogging Dr. Hansen through every step of realizing his dream of Mirador
Basin National Monument - that he has almost rammed down the throats of
the forest concessions advocates (ACOFOP). ACOFOP is supported by CALAS.
Then there is your group and all the riverheads. All interesting efforts.
How can all this ever get to critical mass?
We've made some small advances.
But much has been lost, and the outlook is not good frankly.
Any notions on how we can arrive at a "permanent solution" would be greatly appreciated...