State of the Maya Biosphere Reserve

The Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR)

The Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) was created on february 5, 1990, by Decree 5-90  of the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala, and is designed to preserve some of the world’s most exceptional natural and cultural heritage for present and future generations.  The primary objective in creating the MBR was to combine conservation with the sustainable use of natural and cultural resources in order to maximize the ecological, economic, and social benefits for Guatemala.

The creation of the MBR followed the establishment of the legal and institutional framework for the protection and management of wilderness areas through Decree 4-89,  which created the National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP).  CONAP is the highest authority in the management and coordination of the Guatemalan System of Protected Areas (SIGAP), with jurisdiction across the national territory, coastlines, and airspace.

Covering more than 20,000 km2, the MBR occupies nearly 19% of all Guatemala’s territory, and is part of the largest contiguous network of protected areas in Central America.  The MBR  is made up of a combination of strict protected areas (five national parks, four wildlife preserves or biotopes, and one cultural monument), a multiple-use zone, and a buffer zone.  In the multiple-use zone, designated for the sustainable use of natural resources, there are currently ten institutionally-linked community-managed forestry concessions, and two forestry concessions granted to private industry. 

The MBR stands out as a globally significant area for many reasons, starting with its size.  Together with the contiguous patches of habitat in Belize and Mexico, the reserve forms part of the largest   wilderness area in Mesoamerica.  The MBR also contains exceptional, globally-unique cultural features, remnants of the pre-Hispanic Mayan Civilization.  There are more than 180 archaeological sites in the reserve registered with the Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History (IDAEH), many with unparalleled cultural, historical, architectural, and tourism importance.  Some of the most notable of these sites include Tikal (A UNESCO World Heritage Site ), El Mirador, Nakbé, Uaxactún, Río Azul, Piedras Negras, Yaxhá, and San Bartolo, among many more.  

This website is designed to provide general information about the state of the MBR, as judged from the perspectives of governance, ecological integrity, livelihoods in local populations, financial sustainability, and general strategies for management and conservation.  The site is a product of the project “Strengthening Emerging Local Governance Capacity to Conserve Natural and Cultural Resources and Secure Livelihoods in the Petén, Guatemala,” led by the Wildlife Conservation Society, and jointly implemented by Asociación Balam, the Association of Forest Communities of the Petén (ACOFOP), the Center for Environmental and Social Legal Action of Guatemala (CALAS), the Center for Conservation Studies at the University of San Carlos (CECON), and the National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP).  The project is generously supported by the United Kingdom Department for International Development  (DFID).