Advancing agricultural frontier
This problem is very difficult to resolve because there are no alternative development activities in the region. Park administrators have tried to promote alternatives, like tourism, but with very limited success (Del Busto, 1999). Tourism is not likely to succeed in this region because of poor infrastructure and because other destinations are more attractive than Totonicapán. Instead, as is recommended in the technical study completed when the protected area was declared, lower-impact agriculture should be promoted.
The administrators should continue to conduct fire patrols during the fire season to detect and extinguish fires. In addition, they should work with the communities to create ordinances regulating the use and control of fire for agriculture and grazing. This could be very effective since locals are accustomed to working together to face social problems within their community.
Illegal extraction and logging
Without permanent, regular patrols and properly staffed and equipped control posts, there is little hope for stopping illegal extractions and logging. In other Guatemalan parks, regular patrols by paid guards and police presence has been shown to help reduce illegal activities. This could be a solution for Totonicapán, if there was financing. To reduce Guatemalan fir harvest, efforts should be focused in the cities where most consumers live: Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango. Any store or person selling the fir branches should suffer the consequences for engaging in trade of an endangered species. The campaign to save the Guatemalan fir in 2002 did not take this approach, and that was one of the reasons it failed. Abies guatemalensis are sold openly and freely in the markets despite the fact that the penalty for trafficking of endangered species is 5 to 10 years in prison (LAP, 1989). The law must be enforced.
Lack of personnel, budget, and administrative and technical capacity
Traditional management by Totonicapán indigenous people has been successful and could continue to be successful. Yet, the limitations to traditional management grow every day. First, many young people are not willing to maintain traditional models (Zapeta, 2002, personal communication). Additionally, the threats grow every day to a scale that traditional customs and community institutions have never dealt with and are therefore, have a difficult time resolving. Therefore, the existing cultural systems and community organizations need to be combined with new concepts and work models in order to be effective.
Continued training for Ulew Che' Ja' committee members is needed to resolve the problem of lack of continuity. An ongoing exchange of information and knowledge would help current and future members of the board be trained on projects, activities, and long-term objectives. It would remove, or at least reduce, the need to start from scratch with the board of directors every year. CONAP should solicit and appropriate funds for regular, ongoing training workshops. Other organizations in the area have experimented with this and they have had successes with relatively small financial investments.
CONAP is responsible for the lack of technical capacity; they lack the vision and the political will necessary to help this regional forest. CONAP has never had a close relationship with the board of Ulew Che' Ja'. CONAP also has had a hard time understanding that the communities are pushing for a stricter conservation model than Guatemala's sustainable development model. If CONAP would make the effort to understand and respect what the communities are proposing, they could help them gain the knowledge and tools to carry out the management actions necessary to reach the vision. CONAP could help them create a master plan, which would help with the problem of continuity as well. CONAP should also help them make contacts with other organizations, such as conservation organizations, foundations, etc, that could help resolve their budgeting and personnel crisis. Working together, in a participative manner, they could resolve the lack of capacity problem.
Grazing in the forest
Tropico Verde is currently conducting an independent diagnosis of the grazing problem. Once the diagnosis is complete, the hope is that the problem will be better understood and solutions can be proposed. As was said earlier, many of the locals know that grazing is degrading the forest; they have even fenced off several springs and water sources to keep the animals out. The diagnostic should be useful in establishing grazing regulations. CONAP has stated that resolving the grazing problem is a priority in protecting the Guatemalan fir; once the diagnostic is complete, hopefully CONAP will follow-up and take the recommended actions to resolve their identified priority problem.