In front of the Mexican law's lack of measures to ensure land preservation, the organization Friends of Calakmul (which works to preserve jaguar habitat in the Yucatan Peninsula) came up with an innovative approach: long-term land lease agreements with landowners communities. These deals have been possible only recently in that country, through a set of different dispositions in several laws, which allow to have agreements with communities without the need for a government intervention. How exactly do they work? Friends of Calakmul signs a lease agreement with a community and, in return for a yearly payment, they agree to give up the extractive and logging rights, and engage in pro-active conservation (the communities actually vote to enter the agreements). The compensation is equivalent to what they would get paid from a logging company, and they get a plus for engaging in pro-active conservation (after receiving training). As the agreement is legally binding, a yearly audit guarantees that these communities have conserved the land over the past year and left it undisturbed, and when this is complete, the yearly amount is paid out. "There are many ways to preserve land in the world at a non-governmental level. Ours is related to our national reality, where neither the law nor the authorities warrantee preservation", says Alberto SzÃ©kely, from Friends of Calakmul.The organization recently announced an agreement with a cooperative of landowners to protect 57,080 acres of land at the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, the second largest rainforest in the Americas and home to the second largest Jaguar population outside the Amazon rainforest. Although it has been officially designated a reserve, only the core government-owned portion of the 1.8 million acres has been strictly protected, while the remaining of rainforest and all the wildlife within it are still threatened by illegal logging, slash and burn agriculture, poaching and development pressure.
In addition to jaguars, more than 90 mammal species live in the reserve, including the puma, ocelot, howler and spider monkeys, margay, hawk eagle, as well as crocodiles and hundreds of migratory bird species. US birdwatchers know the area's nesting grounds are critical for songbirds, which return to the US from their winter habitat in Calakmul each spring and summer. The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is also the site of the Calakmul ruins, considered to be one of the most important Mayan cities ever discovered.
The portion Friends of Calakmul has signed into the agreement adds up to the 200,000 acres the organization has already protected, and drives them closer to their 350,000 acres goal.
To get involved, people can partner with Friends of Calakmul by joining the organization and making a small donation, which will go to increase the amount of land under the lease agreement and therefore preserve more land within the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. They claim there are still large parcels of land owned by indigenous communities within the reserve. ::Friends of Calakmul