Where do we draw the line?
When we took over Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve a couple of months ago we had only a slight idea of the challenges we would be facing. Freshwater creek is such an important reserve in creating inter-connectivity within protected areas. It is a key area that helps to bridge the gap between central protect areas and northern protected areas forming a much needed corridor for wildlife including many threatened species.
Our rangers working hard on the field have encountered several areas where illegal activities like logging and illegal harvesting of forest products are occurring. Most of the cleared lands found within the reserve are cane fields with a couple of them being milpas. Some of the land markers have been illegally relocated but thanks to GPS mapping, we know exactly where the boundaries should be.
How did we get to this point?
Freshwater Creek FR has been quite honestly one of the more neglected reserves. It has been due to lack of resources and funding. Through the years people have engaged in illegal logging, poaching, extraction of forest products and claimed land for themselves, all within the reserve. We are now faced with the task of effectively protecting this area and maintain healthy relationships with the communities. We know that we need to remove these farmers who are planting within the reserve but how do we tackle that? Well that’s the real challenge.
Sure, it’s easy to get outraged by all these illegal activities within reserve but who can we blame? Is it the local farmer who is trying to put food on the table? Some of these poor locals can’t even get a legal piece of land to work on. What’s more important to us is developing practical solutions for challenges like these.
What can we do?
Going over boundaries with Santa Martha chairman
Some of the solutions like conservation education have long term results but sometimes immediate results are needed in order to ensure no further deterioration to the protected area. The ideal solution requires a combination of both long term and short term tangible benefits. We have developed and are in the process of establishing two new projects that will help us provide more tangible benefits to these communities. The struggles of a protected area are so complex but we have developed our ultimate goal focusing on conservation for the benefit of the people.
How would you tackle these challenges?