The Maya Forest Corridor has been identified as a conservation priority by the Government of Belize, several international organizations, and our focal partner in Belize, the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) led by Dr. Elma Kay at the University of Belize. ERI, WCS, and Panthera led a 10 year study together to determine the ecological importance of the corridor. They established that the long-term viability of Jaguars, Tapirs, and other large mammals in the region depends on this corridor. The site is a globally recognized Key Biodiversity Area because it has important habitat for threatened species, including the critically endangered Central American River Turtle and endangered Yellow-headed Amazon Parrot.
The corridor connects the two largest blocks of the Selva Maya (Maya Forest), one of the five great forests of Central America that stretches across Belize, Guatemala, and adjacent parts of southern Mexico. The Selva Maya has the largest remaining populations of Jaguar and Tapir in all of Central America in large part thanks to the connectivity of this forest. However, as with so many other tropical forests, it is under threat on many different fronts and will soon be severed in the middle if action isn't taken.
We are now close to securing the keystone properties for the corridor that would link these two large blocks of the Selva Maya. This 40,000 acre reserve would secure an estimated 2.5 million tons of carbon. The corridor contributes to the viability of the broader Selva Maya by keeping 10 million acres of forest continuous. This connection ensures gene flow and healthy populations of seed dispersing mammals, birds, and other ecosystem engineering animals that are critical to forest resilience and hence continued, long-term carbon sequestration across the entirety of the largest rainforest in Mesoamerica. In total, the Selva Maya harnesses over 600 million tons of carbon.
Our goal is to secure 80% of the Maya Forest Corridor by December 2020. The targeted properties are the crown jewels of the corridor as they provided habitat for the most endangered species in the region. They are also at the greatest risk of being lost to logging and an expansion of sugar cane plantations and cattle ranching in the very near future. The total project cost is $23.5 million. Over the past year, we have raised $16.4 million in committed pledges. The remaining need is $2.6 million in philanthropic support and a bridge loan of $4.5 million to support the land acquisition until carbon revenue can cover this cost over a ten year period. All funds raised above this amount will be directed to land acquisitions to secure the remaining 20% of the corridor and management of the entire area.
Maya Forest corridor brief (PDF) | Maya Forest Corridor intro (PPT) | Letter support from Phantera (PDF)