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Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 7, pp 1581–1593 | Cite as

Protecting imperiled “paper parks”: potential lessons from the Sierra Chinajá, Guatemala

  • Curan A. BonhamEmail author
  • Eduardo Sacayon
  • Ernesto Tzi
Original Paper

Abstract

In many developing nations, “paper parks”, or protected areas that have little or no formal management on the ground, have resulted from the failure of protected area systems to achieve their foremost goal: biodiversity conservation. This analysis incorporates biophysical, socioeconomic, and land use/tenure data collected by a multi-disciplinary team of Guatemalan and American researchers in order to identify potential management plans and multiple-use/concession arrangements. The Sierra Chinajá is a classic paper park protected area in Guatemala. Many factors have rendered Guatemalan protected areas management policies ineffectual in the Sierra Chinajá despite the fact that it has been an “area of special protection” since 1989. Proximate causes of forest conversion mask underlying driving forces responsible for rapid biodiversity loss. Despite the fact that Guatemala’s protected areas management system is similar to that promoted by international conservation organizations it has yet to effectively conserve biodiversity. These factors suggest that protected areas management in Guatemala, and other developing nations possessing unique cultural and natural histories, must be rooted in the local context as promulgated by the local non-governmental organization ProPéten in their proposal for an official Indigenous Reserve category. The proposal suggests the devolution of management responsibilities from federal institutions to local communities in the effort to develop a community-based, site specific conservation agenda.

Keywords

Protected areas management Paper parks Biodiversity conservation 

Resumen

En muchos países en desarrollo, las “áreas protegidas en papel” o parques que no poseen un plan de manejo formal, han sido el resultado de la incapacidad del sistema nacional de áreas protegidas de alcanzar su meta mas importante: la conservación de la biodiversidad. El siguiente análisis incorpora datos biofísicos, socioeconómicos, de uso y tenencia de la tierra recolectados por un grupo multidisciplinario de investigadores guatemaltecos y norteamericanos con el objetivo de formular una estrategia de conservación que incorpore concesiones de usos múltiples. La Sierra de Chinajá es un ejemplo clásico de un “área protegida en papel” en Guatemala. Muchos son los factores por los cuales la política de áreas protegidas ha fracasado en la Sierra de Chinajá, a pesar de estar clasificada como un “Área de Protección Especial” desde 1989. Las causas subyacentes responsables por el cambio en la cobertura forestal están escondidas debajo de los síntomas más visibles de la perdida de biodiversidad. A pesar de que el Sistema Guatemalteco de Áreas Protegidas es similar al promovido por organizaciones internacionales aun no es efectivo en la conservación de la biodiversidad. Estos factores sugieren que el manejo de las áreas protegidas en Guatemala, y en otros países en desarrollo que poseen historias naturales y culturales únicas, deben estar enraizadas en el contexto local, como ha sido propuesto por la organización Pro-Peten en su propuesta por una categoría de manejo denominada Reservas Comunitarias Indígenas. La propuesta sugiere la delegación de la protección la biodiversidad de instituciones estatales a las comunidades locales con el propósito de establecer una agenda de conservación basada en el manejo comunitario.

Notes

Acknowledgements

This project was made possible thanks to support from the Guatemalan Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FONACON), the non governmental conservation organization ProPeten, and the Center for Conservation Studies at the Universidad de San Carlos. In addition we express our gratitude to S. Siebert, T. Brient, and the anonymous referees for their help in the revision of this text.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Curan A. Bonham
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eduardo Sacayon
    • 2
  • Ernesto Tzi
    • 3
  1. 1.College of Forestry and ConservationUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA
  2. 2.Facultad de BiologíaUniversidad de San CarlosGuatemala CityGuatemala
  3. 3.Land Measurement GroupAsociación Pro Bienestar en Acción (APROBA-SANK)Chisec, Alta VerapazGuatemala

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