Last Untouched Lands Protection in El Salvador – Not Impossible for SalvaNatura!

The smallest but also the most densely populated country in Central America with 330 inhabitants per km ², El Salvador territory faces the gradual erosion of biodiversity and its natural habitats. Given the lack of involvement of government institutions more concerned by the development of the coffee and the tourism industries, a handful of men and women committed to maintain and protect the 3% of the territory still occupied by natural areas. Here I will present some of the activities of the SalvaNATURA organization in the Impossible National Park.
 
The Impossible National Park is located in the Department of Ahuachapán, southwest of El Salvador, Central America, specifically in the western end of the UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve Sierra Apaneca-Llamatepec and next to the Ruta de las Flores, between the cities of Ataco, Tacuba and San Francisco Menendez. « Impossible »??? Interesting to check out what is going on this special rainforest, one of the last remnant untouched ecosystem of the over-populated El Salvador.
 
Despite my contact with SalvaNATURA in advance to organize my arrival, it was pretty complicated to reach the remote area. It is located between the top of the mountains and the coastal plain, between 250 to 1.425 meters. The road leading to public areas of the park is coming from Sonsonate and going towards the border with Guatemala’s Hachadura (this last was where I came from with my bicycle). The main entrance is in the sector of San Benito, after 13km of very (very) steep dirt road.
 
IMPOSSIBLE by bicycle for sure!  I had to take the slow bus to climb the mountain and arrive in the night at the Park entrance, just enough energy to open my tent in the wild campground, alone!

El Imposible National Park

The Impossible is the largest national park of El Salvador. This protected area is considered the most important natural relic of a globally threatened dry tropical and dry tropical pre-montaneous forest ecosystem, but also for being one of the last refuges for an incredibly diverse wildlife community, source water resource for the area and owner of scenic beauty for sustainable tourism development. El Salvador is the most About tropical dry forests, you can read another interesting conservation project in Costa Rica here.

The park count nearly 1000 species of plants, 13 species of fish, 4 species of toads and 7 frogs, 19 species of lizards, 24 snakes, 1 turtle, 286 species of birds, 10 mammals (including the jaguar), over 5,000 species of butterflies. Inventories are still necessary to cover all the remote territory and discover new endemic species.

In 1989, by legislative decree, acquired the title El Imposible National Park and in 1991,  SalvaNATURA received the grant by the State to administer the park, and becomes its co-management organization.

About SalvaNATURA

SalvaNATURA is a Salvadorean non-profit organization working in the area of environmental conservation. The NGO Conserv’Action gives us a nice presentation of their mission and activities.

Caminata con el super guia Eliberto

Caminata con el super guia Eliberto

In 2006 SalvaNATURA signed a technical cooperation agreement between the MARN (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources), to strengthen, coordinate and consolidate the management of El Imposible National Park by running programs and subprograms Management Plan and under the guise of co-management.

As a co-manager of El Imposible, SalvaNATURA seeks to promote and implement activities for the protection, conservation, restoration and sustainable management of natural resources of the park which is currently the focus of increased biodiversity and scenic beauty in El Salvador.

SalvaNATURA works hard to identify funding sources to assist the implementation of the objectives and programs of The Impossible management and sustainable development of the communities near the park.

Management Zones are identified:

  • Intangible Zone:  77% of Forest. Not used for transit or tourism visitation without extraordinary permission to preserve ecological processes. Only if approved by the authority, you could perform research, preservation, conservation and monitoring projects.
  • Intensive Use Zone: 6% of the forest, where the tourist recreation and environmental education-communication are encouraged, trying to cause minimal impact on the natural environment and considering aesthetic aspects. Each sector can support up to a maximum of 300 tourists daily.
  • Extensive Use Zone: 17% of the forest, that remains in a natural environment with minimal human impact. The controlled management of this area allows tourism and educational tours.

Good Practice!In addition, SalvaNATURA works together with buffer zones around the park through environmental education, promotion of appropriate technologies and tourism opportunities. These areas receive the benefits and environmental services of the Park, such as water, scenic beauty, biodiversity and carbon reservoir of carbon capture. It has an area of 58.954 hectares and consists of the municipalities of San Francisco Menendez, Tacaba, Guaymango Jujutla and who reciprocally affect development. See below an example about ecotourism.

For more on SalvaNATURA, please visit www.salvanatura.org/index.php

Ecotourism

The Impossible receives over 8,000 tourists a year who visit these 4,000 hectares of forest, protected by 25 rangers and toured by a team of 20 local tour guides, to make contact with nature.

But tourists looking for adventure not found anywhere else in the country. The steep topography of El Imposible definitely becomes an opportunity for extreme hiking tours and take great pictures.

I recommend you to visit  this beautiful natural area in a comfortable and secure environment is made ​​possible through the continuing work of remodeling, development and rehabilitation of infrastructure for the use of tourists, thanks to the action of SalvaNATURA.

The Visitor center Mixtepe is located in the old part of the Hacienda San Benito, 100 meters after entering the park, by Sector of the same name. It is a large wooden house was restored in 1999 to accommodate an Interpretation Centre, an administrative office, offices for park rangers and guides, souvenir shop, viewpoint tower, parking and restrooms.

Hostal El Imposible

Entrada del eco-hostal El Imposible

Entrada del eco-hostal El Imposible

Outside the park, I met Mr. Epifanio Perez, president of the development association of the community of Caserío San Miguelito to talk about ecotourism as an opportunity to the local community and nature preservation. The association is in charge to run the Hostal El Imposible (15-years lease agreement with SalvaNATURA). The Hostal offers cabin-style lodging and a restaurant on site, serving typical food (like the creol chicken or gallina india) and offering little information about the park.

« We need more financial resources than the accommodation and restaurant incomes in order to develop a real product of ecotourism, as well as to benefit  to the locals living conditions. »

For example, the management of garbage is a big problem. There is need to clean the village, the neighbours, collect and develop recycling to preserve the high environmental standards required by the vicinity of the national park and Biosphere reserve.

This is a big challenge, confesses Epifanio Perez, to stimulate and involve the eco-consciousness of inhabitants of the village. But this is worth it for both Nature and People.

I could just give them advises to use international volunteering to increase visitation of the hostel or to prepare application for international grants for ecotourism projects.

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