Two problems are being tackled at the same time by 56 impoverished families from the jungle village of Carmelita, Guatemala, who were given a concession to form a logging cooperative in 130,000 acres in the Maya Bioshere Reserve.
Using strict enviromental standards issued by a European organization that encourages responsible management of the world's forests, the cooperative runs what José Román Carrera, Central America forestry coordinator for the New York-based Rainforest Alliance calls "The best model in Latin America."
Environmentally conscious logging efforts such as these were given a boost last year when Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order requiring all new or renovated California state-owned facilities to be certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program created by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED rates facilities on a range of eco- friendly standards, including energy and water efficiency, and the use of environmentally sound building resources, including certified wood.
The cooperative has made a noticeable difference in the preservation of the rain forest. Although 36 percent of the reserve is protected by law, some of its most prominent national parks have suffered major destruction in recent years due to illegal settlers, ranchers, poachers and drug traffickers. More than half of Laguna del Tigre National Park, a vast wetland area, has been burned for ranching and farming in the past several years, environmentalists say.
Yet recent satellite photos by the U.S. Geological Survey show forest coverage remains mostly intact in the area under concession to 11 communities and two timber companies.
A program that alleviates poverty, protects the rainforest, and contributes to environemntally sound buildings in the U.S. is quite an achievement.