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The Totonicapán Forest: What’s at Stake

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Located in Totonicapán department in Guatemala, the Forest of Totonicapán is a 52,000 acre old-growth forest: in a space a little more than double the size of Manhattan a variety of ecosystems from humid lowlands of mixed broadleaf trees to high-elevation tracts of conifer have flourished largely undisturbed for hundreds of years. Found here are many species of birds, plants, mammals, reptiles and insects which are endemic to the region including the largest remaining stand of the endangered Guatemalan fir (Abies guatemalensis). Recognizing the ecosystem’s critical importance, in 1959 the government of Guatemala designated just over 16,000 hectares as Los Altos de San Miguel Totonicapán, a national park. More than fifty thousand people rely on the water generated by the forest watershed for their daily needs. Many of these people are Maya Quiché, who have lived in this area for many hundreds of years. The Quiché spiritual practice reveres the forest as the source of life, and the foundation of their community. They have successfully protected it, and sustainably used its resources for many generations. Known as “Kachelaj” in Quiché, it is celebrated in their earliest historical records and stories of the region. EcoLogic works in Totonicapán because we recognize a dual opportunity: we collaborate with the Maya Quiché and other local people not only to protect and repair the damage done to this valuable and impressive forest, but also to preserve and fortify the cultural traditions and heritage of the Quiché people. We believe that one serves the other, and in finding new ways to support the traditions of the Maya Quiché we also improve the long-term prospects for this vital ecosystem. And that’s a winning combination for all life in Totonicapán.