A generous gift in the will of Maurice Melzak presented the opportunity to save 1512 acres (612 hectares) in Huehuetenango, west Guatemala, which has allowed WLT supported partner FUNDAECO to purchase La Soledad reserve, adding to the 708 hectares protected by WLT funding in this region.
A land of many trees
Guatemala’s name comes from the Náhuatl word Quauhtlemallan, which translates as the land of many trees; undeniably apt for this biodiversity hotspot, which is home to 1000s of endemic species living in the varied ecoregions, including tropical broadleaf forest and mangroves. Following FUNDAECO’s successful conservation at Laguna Grande Sarstún, Sierra Santa Cruz, Yal Umin Yul Witz and Tapon Creek and Laguna Brava, WLT are truly grateful for Maurice’s kindness, which has secured a future for further wilderness in Guatemala.
In 2005, over one third of Guatemala remained forested. However, since then an average of 73,000 hectares of forest are lost every year. This rapid deforestation is triggering a loss of genetic diversity and placing the endemic and threatened wildlife and plants at risk. As the fifth most biodiverse country in the world, conservation in Guatemala is overwhelmingly critical. La Soledad sits in one of Guatemala’s most biodiverse areas, abundant in endemic wildlife including amphibians, reptiles, butterflies and insects. It is within an Important Bird Area and AZE site, making its conservation vital.
Crucial protection for the critically endangered
This incredible gift came at just the right time. A year earlier, the site nearly sold for logging and agricultural expansion, which would have eviscerated the forest. Luckily, this sale was not completed and FUNDAECO and WLT grabbed the chance to protect this valuable reserve. Over the past 30 years, the region has suffered extensive deforestation driven by population growth and subsistence agriculture.
The reserve at La Soledad is a unique biological area comprised of five ecosystems including dry and tropical forests, karstic lagoons and cenotes. It is home to many of Guatemala’s endemic species, including, Mountain Elaenia, Litter Frog and Gold Toad of the Cuchumatanes, and provides safety for a number of endangered animals including: Highland Guan and Horned Guan, Hartweg’s Spikethumb Frog, Montane Robber Frog, and Mayan Deer Mouse. It is also one of the last remaining forests where Guatemalan Fir grows.
La Soledad is also an important migratory habitat; recent site visits recorded the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler. Native to Texas, this striking black bird with bright yellow cheeks winters in the Pine-Oak forests of Guatemala but habitat loss has caused population declines.
FUNDAECO will own and manage the land as part of its network of reserves across Guatemala. As with their other reserves, FUNDAECO will register La Soledad as a Private Natural Reserve within the national system of protected areas, ensuring a safer future for this abundant forest. Funds have also supported an initial team to manage the project, while FUNDAECO will continue to work with neighbouring communities to support sustainable income agriculture and improved access to water.
FUNDACEO have been protecting habitats in Guatemala since 1990. WLT and FUNDAECO became official partners in 2008, purchasing 1500 acres of lowland and inundated tropical rainforest to create the reserve at Laguna Grande. Since then, we have continued to purchase and protect similar areas in Guatemala with FUNDAECO.
If you would like to give WLT a gift in your Will to help us to save some of Earth’s most wild places for future generations forever, you can learn more about legacy donation here.