Conservation of cultural and natural resources is one of the most important global long-term goals for this century. Yet efforts to accomplish this have often overlooked the importance of short-term economic needs at regional and local levels. This is clearly evident in the Maya forest region. A model conservation program must balance short-term with long-term objectives to attain a sustainable framework for resource management.

The El Pilar Program is not conservation at the expense of economic development. It is conservation in addition to economic development

The population of the Maya forest region is expected to double over the next two decades, threatening the integrity of the tropical ecosystems with contemporary development strategies. But curiously, the Maya forest was home to a major civilization with at least 3 to 9 times the current population. The ancient Maya lived with this forest for millennia, yet the forest survives, and demonstrates resilience to the impact of human expansion. The El Pilar Program believes there are valuable lessons to learn from this past.

The El Pilar Program has the great potential to evolve a unique conservation design incorporating local community needs, government development agendas, and international environmental concerns. This can be accomplished by a collaborative consortium of individuals whose enthusiasm and experience can be brought to the Maya forest region. The project touches on major development themes in the region, including tourism, natural resources, international relations, and security. Yet the impact is more profound. Working with traditional forest gardeners involves agriculture, rural enterprise, and capacity building that embraces economic development, education outreach, and training. There are few areas untouched by El Pilar’s community scope.