Celaque National Park
Celaque National Park (Spanish, Parque Nacional Montaña de Celaque) is a national park in Honduras. It was established on January 1st 1987 and covers an area of 266.4 square kilometres. It includes Honduras’ tallest peak, called Cerro Las Minas or Pico Celaque, which reaches approximately 2,870 metres or 9,416 ft above mean sea level. It has an elevation ranging from 975 to 2,870 metres or 3,199 to 9,420 ft. Celaque’s terrain is very rugged, two-thirds of the area has a slope greater than 60 degrees. The park is classified as a cloud forest with a mean precipitation of 1,600 mm at lower altitudes and a mean of 2,400 mm at higher altitudes. The word celaque is reputed to mean caja de aguas ("box of water(s)") in the local, but now extinct, indigenous Lenca language. Celaque’s nine rivers supplies water to 120 villages near by including the district capital of Gracias. Celaque is high in biodiversity and is home to jaguars, pumas, ocelots and Bolitoglossa celaque, an endangered newt found only in the mountains of Celaque. However, Celaque was not always a recognized park.
1970-1980 The Honduran Forestry Development Corporation (HFDC) lead intense logging throughout Celaque’s peaks. The result was a loss in biodiversity and vital resources to the communities. However, logging was not the only cause of loss of forests. The communities inside the park’s perimeters have created open forest patches due to small-scale farming. The people of La Campa, a village close by, grew nervous and formed a grassroots organization to try and stop the logging. Their goal was met in 1987 when the National Congress of Honduras made Celaque a national park. By forming the park, some 266 square kilometres or 65,730 acres were notionally protected from logging, agriculture, outside incursion and market-related forestry exploitation.
More recent studies on Celaque’s Conservation efforts have shown less positive results. The change in the park’s environment had slowed down after 1995. Though the park prohibits outside logging and agriculture, it does not restrict the communities that live inside the boundaries. The patchwork on the edges of the park had grown dramatically due to increase in community agriculture. Deeper inside the park more agriculture land is being used and much of that land is using unsustainable fertilizers. Inhabitants have also grown intensely. Eight communities in Celaque’s upper third create a patchwork of villages. However, only 6% of the land is dedicated to small-scale farming and most of the damage is still being done through illegal logging and commercial agriculture. Due to the recent high demand of coffee beans, the slopes contain more coffee plantations than ever.
Celaque Current Efforts
Though the transformation of the land into a national park produced positive results, it wasn’t enough to stop the unsustainable practices in the park. There are many NGOs in Honduras that are dedicated to saving Celaque’s pristine slopes. One of which is The Federacion de Desarrollo Comunitario de Honduras (The Federation of Community Development of Honduras). The FEDECOH is dedicated to teaching communities sustainable farming practices. They use a 60-acre (240,000 m2) farm called El Molino at the base of Celaque to teach soil conservation, crop rotation, biodiversity and other sustainable practices. Over ten years they have taught thousands of farmers in 120 rural communities. Their new project is ecotourism for Celaque National Park. Friends of Celaque is another organization that was founded by a few concerned individuals. Their goals are to create awareness through periodical reports, create alliances with other ecological organizations, attract ecologists, biologists and other scientists interested in park conservation and to prove to the citizens of the area thata they will benefit from the conservation of the park’s resources. Though these organizations and many others are doing a lot to protect Celaque National Park, more awareness needs to occure in order to preserve this very isolated yet special place.
In the end the people in the area and Honduras at large will decide by their everyday behavior the fate of Celaque National Park.