Failing the Parks in Panama– Just Conservation post excerpt

Atop the mountain, a modest log ranger station is manned by one of 175 park rangers in Panama “trained at handling conflicts with intruders to the park,” according to the World Bank’s 2005 implementation report (No: 34757). This loan is one of several to consolidate Panama’s protected areas as connecting nodes in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, an unbroken string of protected areas from Mexico to Colombia. This project is funded and implemented by the World Bank’s Global Environmental Facility, along with its partners in conservation.Amidst beetles preserved in glass jars and protected area maps on the walls, visitors at the ranger station are first required to sign their names into a log before being led along a hike into the reserve’s only accessible area—a 700-meter hiking trail that circles back to the lodge. Around the perimeters of the reserve, some World Bank-funded “alternative livelihood” microprojects can be found scattered about—honeybee farms without honeybees, ecotourism initiatives without any tourists, eco or otherwise, or any place for them to stay or eat, for that matter. The park ranger explains that this location on the mountain once served as a stronghold of General Noriega’s army, but now is devoid of human occupation, through conservation policy; though he later admits, when pressed, “there is much drilling in the park—oil, gas coal.” He adds, “anyone caught living in the park is visited by armed guards with machine guns and asked to leave. There is no hunting, fishing or slash and burn agriculture [crop rotation farming] allowed.” The ranger reports anyone attempting to sneak back into the park for fuel wood or meat to Panama’s de facto military, The National Police—units funded and armed by US taxpayers to carry out displacement.


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