Guatemalan Fires Show Logging Concessions Better at Protecting Forests than Parks

Timber concessions are can be more effective in conserving tropical forests than other forest management systems, including protected areas.

This is evident looking at a current map of fires in Guatemala (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Map of fires April 21, 2017. Source: Global Forest Watch.

In this map, we see that the fires (red dots) are in the western part of northern Guatemala, which consists of the National Parks of Laguna del Tigre and Sierra del Lacandón (see map below – Figure 2); while the forest managed for timber extraction does not show any fires (eastern part of northern Guatemala).

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Figure 2. Map of forest concessions in northern Guatemala. Source: Radachowsky et al. 2012.

Fire is a common way of clearing forest in the tropics. In Guatemala, forest fires are almost always made by humans in an effort to convert forests to other land uses, primarily agricultural.

However, when communities earn money from forests, as they do in these Guatemalan timber concessions logging species of high commercial value like Genuine Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) and Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata), it just makes sense to leave the forest standing.

Despite frequent criminalization of the forest products industry as a threat to tropical forests, the truth is that the conservation of tropical forests depends on a profitable, efficient, and robust forest products industry.

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