Six New Protected Areas for Mesoamerica Hotspot

June 2006

The Dutch government recently committed more than $5 million in funding to a partnership of local government, national organizations, and grassroots civil society groups that will use the resources to create at least six new protected areas in Guatemala’s Cuchumatanes area.

Despite its importance as a key biodiversity area in the northern region of the Mesoamerica Hotspot, no protected areas have been established in the predominantly indigenous region of Cuchumatanes due to its long history of civil strife. The area is consequently the single most significant gap in the country’s system of protected areas.

The Fundación para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación (Foundation for Ecodevelopment and Conservation or FUNDAECO) and the Asociación de Organizations de los Cuchumatanes (Cuchumatanes Association of Organizations or ASOCUCH), a regional farmers group, played key roles in securing the funds as part of a project supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

"It is wonderful news for the incredible area of Cuchumatanes," FUNDAECO Director Marco Cerezo said. "Funding from CEPF has helped leverage these additional resources from the Dutch government, our original partners in the area.

“We look forward to continuing our work with the National Council for Protected Areas and a number of local community organizations. We need to get these much-needed protected areas established so the region's extraordinary biodiversity can be properly managed for future generations."

CEPF’s support for FUNDAECO’s work in the area is part of CEPF’s strategic direction of collaborating with other donor-funded projects to facilitate and operationalize successful conservation activities in Northern Mesoamerica’s eight most important key biodiversity areas.

The new Dutch funding allows FUNDAECO to build on the original project, which included preparing baseline technical and management studies as well as completing other actions required to establish new protected areas, including Todos Santos Cuchumatanes Municipal Reserve, the Pepajau-Magdalena Region, and the Cruz Maltin Mountain Range.

The sites cover areas stretching from 800 to 3,600 meters above sea level, and include the only extensive example of subalpine prairie habitat in Central America. The areas have high levels of endemism of beetles and plants and are home to three endemic salamanders and three endemic frogs, all of which are Critically Endangered.

The partnership working in the area includes ASOCUCH, Instituto Nacional de Bosques (National Forestry Institute), Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas (National Council for Protected Areas), FUNDAECO, and Conservation International-Guatemala.

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