Guatemalans Oppose Drilling in National Park

“Environmental Destruction!”

This was the front page headline on April 11 of Guatemala’s largest newspaper, “La Prensa Libre”. The story under the headline reported the results of a recent country-wide survey on a variety of environmental issues.

One of the most interesting results of the survey was that respondents considered deforestation to be the greatest environmental threat facing the country. In addition, 81.8 percent of people surveyed opposed a possible concession for oil drilling in the tropical rainforest preserve known as Laguna del Tigre.

The preserve is part of a patchwork of protected rainforest in northern Guatemala that is critical for supporting local biodiversity. I had just been hiking in Laguna del Tigre a few days before (under a heavy rain of course),and it was amazing to be surrounded by so much beauty, so much history and so much life. I should point out that howler monkeys must be 90 percent lungs, because for their small size, they make quite a racket.

In the next few weeks, the government of Guatemala will vote on whether to grant this oil concession in Laguna del Tigre. I hope local politicians will listen to the people and think about the long-term value of their rainforests and the richness that these ecosystems hold. From the front page of “La Prensa Libre” it seems that the people of Guatemala have spoken: Protect these forests, rivers and lakes – the resources that make Guatemala rich and unique.

Manuel Oliva is CI’s Director of U.S. Climate Policy.

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