GUATEMALA CITY – In a letter sent to Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Jesse Carmichael and James Valentine of Maroon 5 and Adam Gardner of Guster ask the President to support one of the world’s leading models of forest management.
Forest concessions in northern Guatemala’s biodiverse Maya Biosphere Reserve are governed by a concession system that fosters community management of natural resources alongside forest preservation. In their letter, Carmichael, Valentine, and Gardner express their hope that President Morales support community forest management in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, which they visited in December 2015.
“We saw firsthand that the benefits of community forest management extend not only to the forests, but also to Guatemalan communities…The community concessions are an important example of how to mitigate climate change at the global level and they have contributed to making communities stronger and more economically vibrant because community members have the opportunity to use their natural resources sustainably,” wrote the musicians.
International and national organizations, such as the Association of Forest Communities in Petén (ACOFOP), are calling on the Guatemalan government to allow for the renewal of community contracts, some of which will expire in the next decade. If renewal is not allowed, many local people fear the forests within the concessions will become vulnerable to deforestation by small-holder and industrial agriculturists as well as illegal loggers.
Support for improved forest management is more critical now than ever as forest defenders are under attack in Guatemala and elsewhere in Central America. On March 16, Walter Méndez Barrios, leader of the La Lucha forest cooperative in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, was murdered near Las Cruces, Guatemala. It is believed he was targeted for his efforts to protect forests from illegal logging and conversion to pasture land for cattle.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales took office in January 2016 and with the beginning of his term has the opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to Guatemala’s communities and forests.
“President Morales can help to preserve this successful model by advocating for the long-term renewal of concession contracts based on the conservation and economic advances that Guatemalan communities have already demonstrated through community forest management,” said EIA’s Senior Policy Advisor Lisa Handy.
The Maya Biosphere Reserve is the most biologically diverse ecosystem in Central America and is home to high-value wood species such as mahogany, rosewood, and cedar, which are in great demand on the international market. Community forest management, such as that occurring in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere, is a path to sustainable harvest, while protecting the longevity of these species from the growing global appetite for precious woods.
Maroon 5 and Guster, in collaboration with the Environmental Investigation Agency and the environmental non-profit organization Reverb, have long called for the legal and sustainable harvesting of wood for musical instruments and other wood products. The musicians’ December trip to Guatemala reinforced their belief that community forest management can contribute to forest conservation and combatting the illegal timber trade.
“Local communities taking care of their own backyards is a really effective way to protect these forests,” said James Valentine. “It’s in the communities’ interest to preserve these forests for future generations.”
Members of the Reverb and EIA delegation will return to Guatemala in May for a national launch of the video documenting Maroon 5 and Guster’s December visit to the Maya Biosphere Reserve’s community forest concessions, and to garner support for the community concession model.
Maggie Dewane, EIA Press Officer, +1 202-483-6621, [email protected]