Lacantún Biosphere Reserve is extremely important for the Selva Maya. Along with Montes Azules and Sierra la Cojolita, it forms a biological corridor connecting Mexico's Selva Lacandona and Guatemala's Petén (Ankersen y Arriola 2001). Despite its importance, threats to the reserve endanger biodiversity conservation in the entire region. Since the 1990s the border highway has been a threat because it facilitated access to the reserve for communities and immigrants. The most affected regions in the zone are along the highway, in the north and east. This is where most agriculture and grazing takes place and where the access trails for legal and illegal timbering are located. This is also where the major wildfires have caused the most damage.
Lack of personnel and financial resources is also alarming. Full-time employees are needed in Lacantún, as are resources and equipment. Currently, CONANP mandates that the staff and resources assigned to Montes Azules are to be shared with Lacantún. While their intentions are good, this strategy is severely insufficient-Montes Azules lacks staff and resources to attend to its own needs, let alone try to cover a larger area and resolve Lacantún's complex problems.
According to ParksWatch experience in Guatemala and Mexico, both Lacantún Biosphere Reserve and Sierra del Lacandón National Park are extremely important to the Selva Maya. They represent the only remaining narrow bridge maintaining genetic exchange between the Selva Maya and Selva Lacandona. This has been demonstrated in studies documenting seasonal migrations of the scarlet macaw (personal observation) and Amazona farinosa.
Both areas also lack management program. While Sierra del Lacandón does have a master plan, some of the strategies within the plan are legally questionable (ParksWatch 2003). Despite this, certain lessons can be drawn from Sierra Lacandón's experience, like how to focus the management program to resolve real problems and establish reasonable, reachable goals. In addition, Lacantún can look to Sierra del Lacandón for guidance when it comes to dealing with the illegal settlers and reaching agreements. Specifically, as was learned in Guatemala, these negotiations should not be above the law and they should not delegate institutional responsibilities to the communities (Albacete 2004).
These tropical forests are without a doubt the richest ecosystems in the world (WWF and IUCN 1994-1997). It should also be noted that Lacantún harbors unique species, such as the Lacandonia schismatica (the only member of the Lacandoniaceae family) and Sierra del Lacandón is home to four endemic plant subspecies.
Lacantún Biosphere Reserve's threats are growing and this relatively well-conserved protected area could soon deteriorate and find itself in a situation similar to Sierra del Lacandón National Park, which has lost more than 40% of its forest cover to similar threats (ParksWatch 2003). We have determined that Lacantún Biosphere Reserve is critically threatened and in the short term the reserve will no longer be able to maintain its biological diversity unless immediate solutions are implemented. At the same time, there are still many opportunities in Lacantún and efforts to conserve it should be accelerated.