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CEP Technical Report No. 36 1996: Status of Protected Area Systems in the Wider Caribbean Region
Country Profiles


Area 108,889 sq. km.

Summary Table

No. of
Protected Areas (PAs)
PAs with Marine or Coastal Zones Extension
Category I 1 0 105,700
Category II 6 0 768,400
Category III 5 0 10,975
Category IV 5 0 52,591
Category V 1 1 1,000
Categories VI-VIII 10 2 843,128
Biosphere Reserves 2 0 1,150,000
World Heritage Sites 1 0 57,400
Ramsar Sites 1 0 48,372
Total (1) 29 3 1,781,794

(1) Totals have been adjusted to avoid double counting areas that are classified in 2 or more categories.

Policy and Legislation

The Constitution of Guatemala (Constitución Política de Guatemala) declares it to be in the national interest to conserve, protect, and improve the natural heritage of the country. For this purpose, the state shall establish inalienable protected areas. The conservation of forest resources and reforestation activities are of national priority (Detlefsen et al 1991). However, national policies on forest conservation, management and recuperation have been unclear and inconsistent (Detlefsen et al 1991).

In 1991 Guatemala formulated its Forestry Action Plan (Plan de Acción Forestal para Guatemala, PAFG). It interpreted the global designs of TFAP to suit specific national interests (Detlefsen et al 1991, Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería y Alimentación, pers. comm., 1991). The PAFG includes several recommendations and details of projects to increase the effectiveness of the forestry sector in Guatemala and stresses the importance of protecting forest resources, the conservation of forest ecosystems, reduction of deforestation and promotion of reforestation activities among its objectives (Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería y Alimentación, pers. comm., 1991).

The first natural resource legislation was the 1921 Forestry Law (Ley Forestal) (Detlefsen et al 1991). Provision for establishing protected areas was first made in the Forestry Law of 1945, but the first protected areas, designated as national parks, were not actually created until 1955 (Nations et al 1988).

Several modifications to the forestry legislation were passed subsequently, but all previous acts are replaced by the 1989 Forestry Law (Ley Forestal) Decree No. 7089 currently in effect. This law was passed in response to the increasing degradation of forests, and states the importance of protecting and renovating forest resources while improving their administration and utilisation.

Under provision of the 1989 Forestry Law, a new forestry institute was created, the General Forestry Directorate (Dirección General de Bosques, DIGEBOS). It replaced INAFOR which was the previous forestry agency. DIGEBOS is responsible for managing and administering forest resources in compliance with national conservation objectives. All extraction concessions must gain the approval of the conservation authorities before they may be issued by DIGEBOS. However, DIGEBOS often grants concessions without consulting conservation authorities such as CONAP (Godoy, pers. comm., 1992).

The 1989 Forestry Law prohibits the destruction of rare or protected tree species and the extraction of forest resources from within protected areas, except where specifically authorised and penalties are given. Resource guards (guardarecursos) are authorised to enforce compliance with forestry regulations.

In the past, policies on the trade and development of wildlife resources have not been conducive to their protection (Detlefsen et al 1991). However, a major step in wildlife protection was taken in 1989 with the Forestry Law and new protected area legislation (see below). Both these laws comprise a significant policy of regulation of forest and wildlife resources (Detlefsen et al 1991).

The first organisation specifically responsible for environmental issues, the National Environment Commission (Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente, CONAMA), was created under provision of Decree No. 6886 Law for the Protection and Improvement of the Environment (Ley de Protección y Mejoramiento del Medio Ambiente), 1986. Provision was made for the establishment of conservation units and a unified national system of protected areas. Environmental impact studies for industrial projects become obligatory, although these have been rarely carried out in practice (Godoy, pers. comm., 1992).

A significant step towards increasing the number and effectiveness of conservation units was the passing of Decree No. 4-89, the Law of Protected Areas (Ley de Areas Protegidas), in 1989. The law also created the National Council for Protected Areas (Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas, CONAP) as a means of increasing the efficiency of protected area management. CONAP is responsible for formulating and implementing a national conservation strategy, and has the ultimate responsibility for the direction and management of SIGAP. An Executive Secretariat (Secretaría Ejecutiva) executes the policies and objectives of CONAP.

Under provision of this decree, an extensive national system of conservation units in the country was created, the Guatemalan System of Protected Areas (Sistema Guatemalteco de Areas Protegidas, SIGAP). All existing areas previously managed as protected areas but lacking legal notification were legalised and incorporated into SIGAP along with those areas already legally established.

A total of 44 new sites was declared under special protection (protección especial). They were to be designated appropriate management categories upon their delimitation and incorporated into SIGAP. However, by 1992, none of these 44 sites had been legally declared or incorporated into SIGAP, and none are managed. The Law of Protected Areas names six different management categories together with objectives and selection criteria (Godoy, pers. comm., 1992).

Also declared protected are: 3 km of both oceans measured out from the high tide mark; 200 m around all lake shores; 100 m on each side of navigable rivers; and 50 m on each side of water sources and springs. Protected areas under private ownership are officially recognised. Provided that the area is managed according to the terms and regulations of the law.

Regulations are given for natural resource use within protected areas. Prohibited activities include hunting, and collecting or destroying fauna or flora. However, both Law No. 6886 and Law No. 4-89 lack regulations which would allow for fines for breaches of the law (Godoy, pers. comm., 1992).

The Regulation to the Protected Area Law (Reglamento de la Ley de Areas Protegidas), Governmental Accord No. 75990 (1990), provides definitions for the terms used in the Law of Protected Areas and details the processes involved in the selection, establishment, and declaration of protected areas. Definitions for the 15 management categories to be employed in SIGAP are given (Annex I). Inventories are to be conducted for those areas previously established by law, and management plans are obligatory for all areas.

Two laws in 1990 provided for the creation of the largest protected areas to date in Guatemala: Decree No. 590 which declared a significant portion of the forest in the Department of Petén as the Maya Biosphere Reserve; and Decree No. 4990 declaring the Sierras de la Minas Biosphere Reserve in the eastern lowlands (Godoy and Castro 1990).

Implementation of the two major environmental laws in effect today, the 1989 Forestry Law and the 1989 Law of Protected Areas, is hindered by the lack of human and financial resources (Detlefsen et al 1991). In order to achieve their stated objectives, institutional strengthening and increased co- ordination between the public and private sectors is required. Strategies need to be formulated to develop educational programmes and involve local communities in forest conservation and management to a greater degree (Detlefsen et al 1991).

International Participation

Conventions & Treaties

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 1992)

Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention, 1983)

Central American Biodiversity Convention (CABD, 1992)

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES, 1973)

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOS, 1982)

Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar, 1971)

Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere (Western Hemisphere Convention, 1940)

Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage, 1972)

Programmes & Associations

Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza (CATIE, 1972)

Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP, 1981) and its Specially Protected Areas & Wildlife Programme (SPAW, 1990)

Latin American Network for Technical Co-operation in National Parks, Protected Areas & Wildlife (LAN-NPPAW)

UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB, 1972)

FAO Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP, 1985)


There are currently around 60 institutions whose activities are directly or indirectly related to protected areas and wildlife. Of these 29 are state or independently owned and the rest are national and international non-governmental conservation organisations (Detlefsen et al 1991).

The National Environment Commission (CONAMA) was created in 1986 as a dependency of the Presidency, and is responsible for assessing and co-ordinating all activities related to the protection and improvement of the environment. CONAMA has been instrumental in creating an Environmental Commission (Comisión del Medio Ambiente) within the National Congress to assess environmental issues at a high level within the government (Nations et al 1988).

The first organisation specifically vested with responsibility for protected areas is the National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP). Established in 1989, the aim of CONAP is to create a high level governmental institution with sufficient autonomy dedicated to the administration of the national system of protected areas (Godoy 1990). CONAP is directly dependent on the President of the Republic (Presidencia de la República) and it sits on the Co-ordinating Council of CONAMA (Consejo Coordinador).

Protected areas may be managed directly by CONAP or by other organisations or individuals through a legal agreement with CONAP and under its supervision. CONAP co-ordinates the activities of the various institutions in order to comply with national conservation objectives. Vigilance within protected areas and the enforcement of regulations is the responsibility of CONAP and the resource guards (Guardarecursos). Authorisation for activities permitted within protected areas must be issued by CONAP.

The Council of 14 individuals is formed by representatives from the different institutions with protected area management responsibilities: CONAMA; the Forest Directorate (Dirección de Bosques); the Guatemalan Tourism Institute (Instituto Guatemalteco de Turismo, INGUAT); the Institute of Anthropology and History (Instituto de Antropología y Historia, IDAEH); the National Agrarian Transformation Institute (Instituto Nacional de Transformación Agraria); the Centre for Conservation Studies (Centro de Estudios Conservacionistas, CECON); the Association of Municipalities (Asociación de Municipalidades); the National Council for Urban and Rural Development (Consejo Nacional de Desarrollo Urbano y Rural) plus three delegates from non-governmental conservation organisations and one representative from the Committee of Agricultural Associations (Comité de Asociaciones Agrícolas) (Detlefsen et al 1991, Godoy 1990).

The policies of CONAP are implemented by an Executive Secretariat (Secretaría Ejecutiva), which comprises three departments: research, studies and planning; execution, development and control; and administration. An Executive Secretary (Secretario Ejecutivo) assigned by the President of the Council is responsible for directing the activities of the Executive Secretariat.

Forests are presently the responsibility of the General Directorate of Forests and Wildlife (Dirección General de Bosques y Vida Silvestres, DIGEBOS), created in 1989 and replacing the former National Forestry Institute (Instituto Nacional Forestal, INAFOR). DIGEBOS is part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food (Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería y Alimentación, MAGA). At the local level it is represented in eight administrative regions of the country, but its financial management is centralised and the distribution of funds often does not reflect the true requirements of the regions (Detlefsen et al 1991). Around 1,915 personnel are employed by DIGEBOS of which 1,550 are unqualified manual labourers. Forest and conservation authorities work closely together. Legally, logging concessions issued by DIGEBOS must first be approved by CONAP and CONAMA. Forests within protected areas are not the direct responsibility of DIGEBOS but are managed by, or under the supervision of, CONAP (Detlefsen et al 1991).

Because of limited government support and capacity for protected areas, a large number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are involved in protected area administration. The Defenders of Nature Foundation (Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza) manages Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve, and the Inter-American Foundation for Tropical Investigation (Fundación Interamericana de Investigación Tropical, FIIT) manages another area. The Ecodevelopment and Conservation Foundation (Fundación para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación, FUNDAECO) and the Mario Dary Rivera Foundation (Fundación Mario Dary Rivera) are each carrying out sustainable development projects in one protected area.

Other NGOs working with rural communities in and around protected areas are: Friends of the Forest (Asociación Amigos del Bosque), Guatemalan Natural History Society (Asociación Guatemalteca de Historia Natural), Environment Defence Association (Asociación Prodefensa del Medio Ambiente), Association for Research and Social Studies (Asociación de Investigación y Estudios Sociales, Así Es), and the Centre for Conservation Studies (Centro de Estudios Conservacionistas, CECON).

Since the creation of CONAP significant improvements in protected area management have been initiated, but these are still not sufficient to bring about the effective planning and administration of the areas. One limiting factor is the lack of human resources to implement the conservation legislation, and the lack of adequate training and qualification for such personnel. Only 68 persons are employed directly in the management of protected areas.

Only six areas have management plans, and more than 80% have still not resolved problems concerning land ownership. Although most legally declared protected areas are state owned many lack official boundaries. Most areas have little or no infrastructure and many areas are isolated within their regions. An analysis of the 54 areas legally protected revealed critical problems in their administration and financing, and a lack of managerial capacity to put protection measures into effect (Detlefsen et al 1991).

Institutionally, there is a serious lack of communication between CONAP and DIGEBOS. DIGEBOS often grants licenses for timber extraction within the 44 areas under special protection by Law No. 489 without consulting CONAP. This makes the creation of new protected areas and the formulation of a national strategy for the conservation of forest resources difficult (Godoy, pers. comm., 1992).


The topographical variation within Guatemala and its geographical location as a bridge between two continents with coastlines on two oceans, give rise to one of the richest biodiversities in Latin America (Nations et al 1988). Guatemala has an altitudinal range from sea level to 4,000 m and, following the Holdridge life zone classification system, 14 life zones occur in the country (Detlefsen et al 1991, URL y ICATA 1984). Two distinct biogeographic realms are identified: the lowlands of the Petén and Caribbean region are Neotropical, while the interior highlands and high Pacific mountains are classically Nearctic. This combination gives rise to a high degree of biodiversity, with representative wildlife and flora from each realm, and of endemism (Detlefsen et al 1991, Nations et al 1988).

Guatemala may be divided roughly into four main regions according to physical biogeographic characteristics: the Pacific coastal plain; the Pacific mountain chain; the Interior Highlands; and the Petén and Caribbean lowlands (Nations et al 1988). The Pacific coastal plain was entirely forested until the 1940's, but the region has undergone great environmental transformation into pastures and swamps as a result of agricultural development. Cattle ranching is concentrated on the fertile, volcanic soils of this region (Nations and Komer 1984). Mangrove forests found along the coast have been seriously degraded by intensive shrimp production, salt extraction, and fuelwood production (Nations et al 1988).

The Pacific mountain chain consists of a chain of 33 volcanoes running parallel to the Pacific Ocean. Forests are found at the base of the mountains, which give way to cloud forest at higher altitude. These highland montane forests have around 70% endemism amongst animal species, but they represent some of the most endangered ecosystems in the country (as a result of colonisation, wood timber extraction and agriculture) (Nations et al 1988). The interior highlands reach altitudes of 4,000 m and are quite heavily populated. This region has also suffered environmental degradation from agricultural practices.

The Petén and Caribbean lowlands in the north-east are the most sparsely populated region in the country. The Department of Petén contains the largest tracts of undisturbed tropical forest, and one of the largest remaining in Central America (Nations et al 1988). However, the Department of Petén is threatened by the imminent construction of a road connecting the region with the capital city and providing access to neighbouring Belize through the forested lowlands of Petén. This will also open the area up to oil exploration (Anon. 1991) and unauthorised logging, hunting, deforestation and settlement.

The total forest cover is around 40% of total land area, and protection forests account for 13% of this coverage (Detlefsen et al 1991).


Much land was converted into banana plantations around the turn of the century to satisfy foreign markets. As a result of concentrated land ownership there is a severe shortage of land available for the Guatemalan peasantry. This results in overpopulation in many areas and colonisation into previously undisturbed rain forest regions. In recent years the government, through the National Institute of Agrarian Transformation (Instituto Nacional de Transformación Agraria, INTA), has embarked on a large-scale colonisation programme which relocated around 60,000 people to the northern forest region, and a further 100,000 is proposed (Colchester 1991). Migration to forest areas often results in inappropriate land use and degradation of forest ecosystems (Detlefsen et al 1991).

Guatemala's 29 protected areas cover nearly 1.8 million ha, 16% of the country's landmass. All the largest areas are located in El Peten, which is adjacent to neighbouring Biosphere Reserves in Belize and Mexico.

The first protected areas were established in 1955 with the declaration of 10 national parks (Godoy and Castro 1990, Nations et al 1988). Between 1955 and 1988 a total of 52 conservation areas were declared, but the majority of these areas did not meet international criteria for protected areas and were ineffectual (Godoy and Castro 1990, Nations et al 1988). Several management categories were employed in this first step towards creating a system of protected areas, such as wild reserve (reserva silvestre), multiple use reserve (reserva de uso múltiple) and national monument (monumento nacional).

The unification of protected areas into a national system took place in 1989 as a result of the Law of Protected Areas (Godoy 1990). The Guatemalan System of Protected Areas (SIGAP) was created as a union of all protected areas throughout the country, whether previously established by law or not. SIGAP incorporates six reserves administered by CECON that had been without legal support, declaring them legally established, and has raised the status of 26 small areas managed by various other institutes to a higher level of legal protection. Finally, 44 new sites were declared areas of special protection (áreas de protección especial) to be studied and legally declared under the appropriate management categories at a later date (Godoy 1990). At the same time, the National Council of Protected Areas (Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas, CONAP) was established to co-ordinate protected area management.

With the creation of SIGAP, protected area coverage increased from less than 0.01% to around 2.22% of total land area. The eventual incorporation of the proposed areas will raise coverage to between 8 and 14%, and encompass nine of the 14 Holdridge life zones (Detlefsen et al 1991, Godoy 1990).

Nearly 45% of the protected areas in SIGAP are located in the Department of Petén (Detlefsen et al 1991). The national system employs 15 different management categories which are grouped into six types based on the common characteristics (Godoy and Castro 1990). The oldest management category in use is cultural monument (monumento cultural), and over half of the present protected areas are classified as such. However, as the primary objective of this category is the protection of national archaeological remains, the flora and fauna in the majority of areas has suffered severe degradation (Detlefsen et al 1991).

A regional network of protected areas has been proposed for the Department of Petén, the Integrated System of Protected Areas in Petén (Sistema Integrado de Areas Protegidas de El Petén, SIAP). At the time of development of the national system Petén was recognised as being of high priority for conservation efforts owing to its important forest ecosystems and the increasing rate of their destruction (Godoy and Castro 1990). As proposed SIAP will comprise three national parks; five forest reserves; six wildlife refuges; four archaeological monuments; two biotopes; four natural monuments; one biological reserve; one experimental station; and one biosphere reserve (Godoy and Castro 1990).

Despite significant improvements in protected area coverage and co-ordination, the effective conservation of ecosystems, with the exception of a few areas, has not been achieved. SIGAP is characterised by a lack of human and financial resources which impede the achievement of protection objectives, a situation that has worsened in recent years (Detlefsen et al 1991). Many areas have been legally declared protected but no funds have been assigned to them to implement management.

One of the major threats to protected areas is the unsustainable extraction of plant and animal resources by local communities. Many of the areas do not have physically defined limits, and are not protected from uncontrolled exploitation, primarily hunting and timber extraction. Around 35% of protected areas have human settlements within their boundaries, and more than 80% do not have buffer zones and are surrounded by agricultural communities.

The administration and planning of protected areas needs to be strengthened to integrate conservation and tourism practices to a greater extent and to allow local populations to benefit from the existence of such areas (Detlefsen et al 1991).

In 1987 the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador signed an agreement to create a tri-national cloud forest biosphere reserve El Trifinio or Brotherhood Biosphere Reserve (Reserva de la Biósfera La Fraternidad) in the mountainous region where the three nations meet. Efforts are now underway to elaborate a co-operative management plan for the reserve that will integrate the local populations of all three nations, and to obtain official recognition as an international biosphere reserve (Mardones 1988, Ugalde and Godoy 1992). Projects have also been proposed for a bi-national protected area Chiquibul/Maya Mountain between Guatemala and Belize, and a network of protected areas in the Gran Petén region involving co-operation between Guatemala, Mexico and Belize (Ugalde and Godoy 1992).


Dirección General de Bosques (DIGEBOS), Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería y Alimentación (MAGA), 7a Avda 680 Zona 13, CIUDAD DE GUATEMALA (Tel: 2 720509/735213; FAX: 2 735214)

Consejo Nacional de Areas Protedigas (CONAP), Presidencia de la República, 7a Av, 400, Zona 1, CIUDAD DE GUATEMALA (Tel: 2 21816/532477; FAX: 2 535109)

Asociación Amigos del Bosque, 9a Calle 223, Zona 1, CIUDAD DE GUATEMALA (Tel. 2 83486; FAX: 513478)

Asociación de Investigación y Estudios Sociales (ASIES), 10 Calle 760, Zona 9, CIUDAD DE GUATEMALA (Tel: 2 347178/9; FAX: 2 314950)

Asociación Pro Defensa del Medio Ambiente (APRODEMA), 20 Calle 1952, Zona 10, CIUDAD DE GUATEMALA (Tel: 2 682000; FAX: 2 372084)

Centro de Estudios Conservacionistas (CECON), Ave. Reforma 063, Zona 10, CIUDAD DE GUATEMALA (Tel: 2 310904; FAX: 2 347664)

Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza, 7a. Ave. 1301, Zona 9, CIUDAD DE GUATEMALA (Tel: 2 325064; FAX: 2 322671)

Fundación Mario Dary, Ave. Reforma 063, Zona 10, CIUDAD DE GUATEMALA (Tel: 2 310904; FAX: 2 347664)

FUNDAECO, 14 Calle B 1424, Zona 10, CIUDAD DE GUATEMALA (Tel: 2 337527/8; FAX: 2 682454)

Comision Nacional del Medio Ambiente (COMANA), 5ta Avenida #8-07, Zona 10, Ciudad de Guatemala Tel: (505-25) 341708 (505-25) 312723 Fax: (505-25) 341708



Anon. (1991) Carretera a Petén será una realidad. Prensa Libre. Guatemala, September 13, 1991.

Colchester, M. (1991) Guatemala: the clamour for land and the fate of the forests.

The Ecologist 21(4):177-185.

Detlefsen, G., Castañeda, L.A., Oliva, E. (Eds.) (1991) Plan de acción forestal para Guatemala (PAFG). Oficina del Plan de Acción Forestal para Guatemala, Guatemala. 227 pp.

FAO (n.d.) La red latinoamericana de cooperación técnica en parques nacionales, otras áreas protegidas, flora y fauna silvestres. Oficina regional de la FAO para América Latina y el Caribe, Santiago, Chile. 8 pp.

Godoy, J.C. (1990) El sistema de áreas protegidas de Guatemala: el pequeño que se agiganta. Flora, Fauna y Areas Silvestres 4(12). Oficina Regional de la FAO para América Latina y el Caribe, Santiago, Chile. 1316 pp.

Godoy, J.C. and Castro, F. (1990) Plan del sistema de áreas protegidas de El Petén, Guatemala, SIAP. Proyecto de conservación para el desarrollo sostenido en América Central, Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE) y el Union Mundial para la Naturaleza (UICN), Turrialba, Costa Rica. 105 pp.

Hartshorn, G.S. and Green, G.C. (1985) Wildlands conservation in Northern Central America Guatemala. 8 pp.

Holdridge, L.R. (1967) Life zone ecology; revised edition. Tropical Science Centre, San José, Costa Rica. 206 pp. (Unseen)

Mardones, C. (1988) Trifinio: un desafío de la conservación para tres países. Flora y fauna y áreas silvestres 3(7). Oficina Regional de la FAO para América Latina y el Caribe, Santiago, Chile. 1822 pp.

Nations, J.D. and Komer, D.I. (1984) Conservation in Guatemala: Final report. Presented to the World Wildlife Fund, US, Washington DC. Centre for Human Ecology, Austin, Texas, USA, February 1984. 170 pp.

Nations, J.D., Houseal, B., Ponciano, I., Billy, S., Godoy, J.C., Castro, F., Miller, G., Rose, D., Rey, M., Azurdia, C. (1988) Biodiversity in Guatemala: biological diversity and tropical forests assessment. Centre for International Development and Environment, World Resources Institute, Washington D.C., USA, December 1988. 110 pp.

Ugalde, A. and Godoy, J.C. (1992) Regional Review: Centroamerica. Regional reviews, IUCN, IV World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas, Caracas, Venezuela, 1021 February 1992. p.13.1-p.13.26

URL y ICATA (1984) Perfil ambiental de la República de Guatemala, tomo II. Universidad Rafael Landivar y el Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Tecnología Agrícola (ICATA), URL/AIDGuatemala/ROCAP, Ciudad de Guatemala. 249 pp.

Zepeda, E.G. (1986) Situación actual de las áreas silvestres protegidas de Guatemala. Instituto Nacional Forestal (INAFOR), Departamento de Parques Nacionales y Vida Silvestre, Guatemala. 18 pp.


Definitions of protected area designations, as legislated, together with authorities responsible for their administration.


Title: Reglamento de la Ley de Areas Protegidas (Regulation to the Protected Areas Law), Acuerdo Gubernativo No. 75990

Date: 22 August 1990

Brief description: Provides further details governing the establishment and functioning of the Guatemalan System of Protected Areas (Sistema Guatemalteco de Areas Protegidas) (SIGAP) and the National Council for Protected Areas (Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas) (CONAP), both of which are created under provision of the Protected Areas Law (Ley de Areas Protegidas), Decree No. 489 of 7 February 1989. Definitions are given for the management categories to employed in SIGAP.

Administrative authority: The protected areas that form SIGAP may be managed by a number of different institutions or private individuals, but the ultimate responsibility for supervising, directing and co-ordinating the national system lies with the National Council for Protected Areas, (Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas) (CONAP).

Designations : Protected areas management categories conform to six major groups:

Parque Nacional (National Park); Reserva Biológica (Biological Reserve) Area of relatively large extension essentially unaltered by human activities, that contains ecosystems, populations or flora or fauna of scientific importance of national or international interest, whose ecological processes have been allowed to continue with the minimum interference. The area is to be managed for the protection, conservation and maintenance of natural biological processes and biodiversity in an unaltered state, so as to be available for scientific research, environmental monitoring, education and limited ecological tourism activities. Visitors will have access to certain parts of the area under special conditions, for education, cultural, and recreation purposes. Prohibited activities include the extraction of timber, hunting, and mineral exploration and exploitation. Collecting or destroying flora or fauna specimens is also prohibited unless for scientific research purposes and with prior authorisation from the respective administration authority and approved by CONAP. No new human habitation is allowed except where necessary for administrative purposes. Where habitation already occurs, methods to integrate these populations with the objectives of the area are sought. If this is not possible, relocation of the communities to other suitable areas is to take place.

Biotopo Protegido (Protected Biotope); Monumento Natural (Natural Monument); Monumento Cultural (Cultural Monument); Parque Histórico (Historical Park) Area that generally contains one or more example of outstanding natural beauty, archaeological or historical remains, or other natural examples of national or international importance. The ecosystems may not necessarily be in an intact state and the size of the area depends on the example or specimen that is to be protected. The area is to be managed for conservation purposes and its ecosystems maintained to as near a natural state as possible. Limited recreation, tourism, education and scientific research activities are permitted.

Area de Uso Múltiple (Multiple Use Area); Manantial (Spring); Reserva Forestal (Forest Reserve); Refugio de Vida Silvestre (Wildlife Refuge) Relatively large area, generally covered by forest. May contain zones appropriate for the sustainable production of timber, water, floral and wildlife resources without adversely affecting the ecosystems of the area. The area may have been altered by human intervention but still retains a large portion of its natural habitat. The area may be under public or private ownership. Management objectives are to ensure the sustainable use of water, forest, plant, wildlife, or marine resources. Conservation may be oriented primarily to support economic activities with zones of strict conservation within the area, or it may be a primary objective in itself. The importance of economic and social objectives must always be maintained, and environmental education and ecological recreation is stressed. Planning and management of the area must ensure that all exploitation is carried out in a sustainable manner to maintain the continuing productivity of the area. Where insufficient management plans exist, to ensure sustainability exploitation of any sort is prohibited except for the traditional exploitation by local indigenous communities until such a plan is implemented.

Area Recreativa Natural (Natural Recreation Area); Parque Regional (Regional Park); Rutas y Vías Escénicas (Scenic Paths and Roads) Area where conservation activities are required to protect natural communities or wild species, but the emphasis is on educational and recreational functions. Generally, the area contains scenic qualities and some attraction for the general public, and is easily accessible. Minimum alteration or modification of the natural habitat is permitted. The area may be under private or public ownership. Regional parks are usually under municipal ownership. Management objectives are aimed at recreation and education.

Reserva Natural Privada (Private Natural Reserve) Area that is owned by a private individual or organisation whose owners have voluntarily dedicated the area to conservation purposes. The area is legally established and is recognised by the state. Management objectives are to ensure the continuance of natural conditions required to protect significant species or groups of species, ecosystems, or cultural or environmental examples on the private property. In very exceptional cases the production of renewable natural resources may occur, but it is of secondary importance to the management objectives. The size of the area depends on the proposal by the owner who maintains his rights to the area and is responsible for its management.

Reserva de la Biósfera (Biosphere Reserve) Area of global importance with respect to its natural and cultural resources. All the areas in this category must be previously approved by the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere committee. The principal management objective of this area is to allow various land uses and sustainable natural resource use with emphasis on traditional activities, as well as effect strict conservation in the core area. Scientific research is permitted. The areas provide important sites for environmental monitoring and facilities for environmental education, training and controlled tourism. Criteria for selection, and zoning within the area are as given by the UNESCO programme.


Name of area IUCN & National Mgmt. Categories Presence of Marine or Coastal Zones Area
Year Established
Laguna del Tigre II NP   350,000 1990
Lacandón II NP   200,000 1990
Laguna Lachua II NP   10,000 1978
Mirador/Dos Lagunos/Río Azul II NP   147,000 1990
Tikal II NP   57,400 1957
Trifinio II NP   4,000 1987
Subtotal 6   0 768,400  
Volcán de Pacaya III NP   2,000 1963
Aguateca III CM   1,709 1987
Ceibal III CM   2,100 1984
Dos Pilas III CM   3,166 1987
Machaquilla III CM   2,000 1974
Subtotal 5   0 10,975  
Sipacate Naranjo IV NP   2,000 1969
Chocón Machacas IV BI   6,265 1981
Mario Dary Rivera (Quetzal) IV BI   1,173 1976
Biotopo El Quetzal IV BI   1,153 1977
San Miguel El Zotz IV BI   42,000 1989
Subtotal 5   0 52,591  
Bahía de Santo Tomás V NP YES 1,000 1956
Subtotal 1   1    
Atitlán VIII NP   54,773 1955
El Rosario VIII NP   1,031 1980
Río Dulce VIII NP YES 7,200 1955
Santa Rosalía VIII NP   1,000 1956
Monterrico VIII BI YES 2,800 1977
Area de Uso Múltiple R.B.M. VIII FR   650,000 1990
Area de Uso Múltiple R.S.M. VIII FR   34,000 1990
Franja Transversal del Norte VIII FR   1,200 1981
Río Chixoy VIII FR   28,000 1980
Río Salama VIII FR   63,124 1956
Subtotal 10   2 843,128  
Maya IX BR   1,000,000 1990
Sierra de las Minas (Zona Núcleo) IX BR   105,700 1990
Subtotal 2   0 1,105,700  
Parque Nacional Tikal X WH   57,400 1979
RAMSAR SITE          
Laguna del Tigre XI RW   48,372 1990

NP = National Parks

BI = Biotopes

FR = Forest Reserves

CM = Cultural Monuments

BR = Biosphere Reserve

RW = Ramsar Wetland

WH= World Heritage Site

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Preface | 1. Introduction | 2. Relevant Issues... | 3. Status of Protected Areas Systems | 4. Conclusions... | 5. References | Country Profiles

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