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Bosawas, the second largest rainforest in the Americas, threatened

News from Nicaragua | Wednesday, 18 June 2014 |

The Bosawás Biosphere Reserve in the northern Nicaragua is a hilly tropical forest designated in 1997 as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Covering 2 million hectares - roughly the size of Wales- Bosawas is the second largest rainforest in the Americas after the Amazon in Brazil. It forms part of the Meso-American Biological Corridor that runs the length of Central America.

Twenty-one thousand indigenous Mayangna and Miskito people live along its rivers. It is home to 150,000 insect species, rare jaguars, eagles and crocodiles as well as the world’s last populations of Baird’s Tapir and the Central American Spider Monkey.

In a landmark 2007 decision the Nicaraguan government recognised the full legal title of the Mayangna to their communal lands. However, according to a delegation to the region organised by the US based Nicaragua Network in February this year, ‘all of the positive work of the demarcation and titling under Law 445 is being threatened by the invasion of colonisers from other parts of Nicaragua.’

Mayangna and Miskito people who live in the area say 30,000 hectares a year are being deforested by “colonists”. According to Mayangna leaders large scale logging and land clearing for agriculture by migrants constitutes a very serious threat to the future of the forest. “Really these people are land speculators. They come in; they burn the forest and put in pasture, then sell it and move to another area.”

Researcher, Dr Thomas Lovejoy pointed out how critical the protection of Bosawas is: “Nicaragua has one of the three great blocs of remaining tropical rain forest in Central America,” he said. “As a consequence, the struggle to protect this precious and unique part of biological diversity is of hemispheric, and global, importance.”

The Nicaragua Network delegation reported on the extent of the violations of the law 445, the the almost non-existent presence of government authorities and corruption that revolves around lawyers and government officials who, according to the complaints of the Mayangnas, are trafficking land in protected areas.

However, the government is now taking action to enforce the law and to launch a National Reforestation campaign.

On 11 June, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) announced that they will accompany the Indigenous Territorial Government of the Mayangna Sauni who have submitted a complaint against four traffickers in indigenous and protected land.

Representative Alberto Mercado added that MARENA is working with the Ecological Battalion of the Army to try to stop colonists from entering Bosawas by placing barricades across the roads into the Reserve. However, he also warned of the scale of the task and the lack of resources warning that the ‘Reserve is immense and has many entrances.’

Meanwhile, the government announced that as part of the activities to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the 1979 Revolution, the Sandinista Youth and the Guardabarranco Young Environmentalists will be carrying out activities to raise awareness of the critical importance of the Reserve and propose solutions.

William Schwartz of the National Forestry Institute (INAFOR), announced government plans to reforest 2,000 hectares with 2.2 million trees in the Reserve, part of a plan to reforest 23,115 hectares nationwide. Schwartz added that Army Ecological Battalion, students, private businesses, organised citizens, and government institutions would be joining the National Reforestation Campaign. He said that it was important to support the efforts of the indigenous peoples who over the years have been the ones who have taken care of the forest for centuries.