Among his many skills, Sebastian De la Hoz is a life-long professional guide specializing in wildlife, archaeology and hiking tours within the core areas and archaeologial sites of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. He grew up within the rainforest of what has become Yax-ha National Park and now has degrees in forestry and economics. Scott Forsythe has been living within short ranges of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in several capacities since 1986. He went to Germany for a degree in environmental and recourse management, returning to become involved in Guatemalan agroforestry.
Green Balam Forests was founded after three decades of witnessing the vast forests of Guatemala’s Petén district be thoughtlessly felled, burned and otherwise unsustainably managed. Creation of the Maya Biosphere Reserve through international cooperation, plus introduction of the concept of community owned, sustainably harvested forestry concessions within the Biosphere established legal limits as to what extent deforestation would be permitted.
Nevertheless, fire, cattle ranches, and settlers encroach and threaten the protected core areas while forest cover within the designated “buffer zone” steadily diminishes. Every yearly fire and smoke season seems to be worse and hotter than the year before, surface water becomes more and more scarce. Habitat for the huge diversity and number of migratory birds from the north is steadily decreasing. Cattle ranching is not a sustainable enterprise on soils that degrade quickly. Green Balam is convinced that investment in agroforestry and conservation both ecologically and economically is the best option for landowners, and for the region and its population. Agroforestry provides more profit, more training and job opportunities than does ranching. Functioning management models to convince landowners of this are desperately needed and are beginning to appear.
Thankfully, the Maya Biosphere Reserve presents a demonstrable backdrop where deforestation is not out of control, where sustainable forest management is successful, where local knowledge and enthusiasm for ecological principles is higher than average, and where local participation in conservation and sustainable management is already occurring. Green Balam Forests plans to be a leader in providing rational agroforestry and conservation solutions that also consider livelihoods for surrounding communities.