Laguna del Tigre is made up of two management units that were created on different dates and through different processes. Laguna del Tigre-Río Escondido Protected Biotope was founded and registered in 1986 by an Act of the Empresa Nacional de Fomento y Desarrollo Económico de Petén (National Enterprise for the Promotion and Economic Development of Petén - FYDEP), that granted the management of the area to the Centro de Estudios Conservacionistas of the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala (Center for Conservation Studies of the University of San Carlos of Guatemala - CECON) (FYDEP, 1986). Laguna del Tigre National Park was instituted on January 30, 1990 by Decree 5-90, which created the Mayan Biosphere Reserve. These legally protected areas, which cover 289,912 hectares (national park) and 45,168 ha (biotope), are the largest strictly protected contiguous areas of Guatemala, totaling 335,080 hectares.
Decree 5-90 sets the geographic boundaries of each area and defines two nuclear zones inside the MBR. The same decree ratified CECON as the biotope's manager, under supervision of the Executive Secretariat of CONAP(3); the National Council of Protected Areas manages the national park.
In May 2004, the Emergency Act for the Defense of Laguna del Tigre National Park (Decree 16-2004), created the Defense and Restoration of Laguna del Tigre National Park Committee(4), chaired by CONAP, which facilitates the coordination between all public and private institutions that participate in the area's protection.
By 2004, the staff of the national park had doubled in size from thre year before 2003. Seventy-three park rangers, 10 archaeological site guardians, and 96 army soldiers staff the park. CONAP has appointed 8 technical experts, one director, and an administrative assistant to the area. Until October 2004, patrols were a joint effort with the National Civil Police's Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA), which retired from the area during the assessment. CECON staff left the area in May 2004, due to the authority problems. CONAP coordinates the staff of Laguna del Tigre, and both the national park and the biotope are constantly patrolled. WCS finances a program in the southeast and surrounding areas of the park that includes patrols by the army and the national police.
CONAP has set up nine control posts in Laguna del Tigre, three of which are run by the army, manned by 15 effectives and one officer each. For every 22 days that the park rangers work, they are granted 8 days off. This work modality plus vacation periods and dismissals are the main causes of the lack of personnel, although the situation has improved in the last few years. The biotope owns two biological stations, one in the south and one in the north; the ProPetén association manages one biological station in the southeastern area of the national park. Currently, the field personnel operate with minimum equipment that will be updated when the funds from the Emergency Act for Laguna del Tigre are obligated. Park rangers do not carry firearms and have limited authority to arrest transgressors. For this reason, joint patrols with SEPRONA are very necessary, and their absence indicates the poor quality of existing surveillance actions. The army supports CONAP and SEPRONA but does not patrol the area without the national police because the sight of the army alone causes commotion among the population. Despite the staff and budget increases and collaboration with the army, the control of illegal activities remains ineffective.
Currently, the area does not have an active master plan because the former obne was only in effect from 1999 through 2003 and the new version has never been finalized. CONAP is updating the master plan with other organizations that work in the area and that have associated under the name "Kanteel." The new master plan should be finalized by mid-2005 (Castellanos, B., 2004, pers. comm.). The former plan incites many problems because it tolerates human intervention and allows activities not compatible with conservation, which transgresses the act of creation of the MBR (Decree 5-90)(5).
The present budget for the protected area is more robust than those of previous years. In 2003, US$197,000(6) was obligated for management (ParksWatch, 2003 a & b); for 2004, it was augmented to more than US$700,000. US$645,000 was obligated by the State(7), US$40,000 was donated by Conservation International's Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund to update the master plan, and US$22,450 was bestowed by the Perenco Oil Company to benefit the personnel that work in the area.
The state's contribution to the 2004 budget is managed through two programs: management and control, and surveillance (CONAP, 2004a). Forty-four percent of the funds have been destined for equipment and materials, 37% for food and control activities, 17% for payroll, and the remaining 2% for training and planning. Some problems that have arisen from the economic bids for the purchase of vehicles have impeded the satisfactory execution of the funds for 2004 and there are plans to expend them in 2005 (Montero, 2004, pers. comm.). The future budget status is uncertain; Decree 16-2004 anticipates that the funds will be trimmed to US$387,000 per year, starting in 2005.
3 Per article 3, number 2, of Decree 5-90.
4 The Governor of the State of Petén, and representatives of the Ministries of Environment, Culture, Defense, and State, the Public Ministry, the Human Rights Office, the University of San Carlos, and CONAP participate in this committee.
5 Article 5 of Decree 5-90 establishes that in the core zones of the MBR "(...) it is strictly forbidden to hunt, capture, or carry out any action that might harm the life or the integrity of the wild fauna, as well as to cut, extract, or destroy any wild flora specimen, except for technical management purposes (...) Human settlements are not permitted, except in the cases when they become necessary for research and management of the area."
6 Of which US$187,000 corresponded to the national park's budget and US$15,000 to the biotope.
7 The budget planned by Decree 16-2004 for 2004 is 5 million Quetzales, albeit only 3 million for 2005 and 2006. Exchange rate: Q7.75 per US$1.