Home Feature In 20 years, Mexico has lost vegetation equivalent to the surface area of Yucatán

In 20 years, Mexico has lost vegetation equivalent to the surface area of Yucatán

by Sofia Navarro
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Mexico has 138.7 million hectares of forest, but every year an average of 208 thousand hectares are lost, according to official data. Pine and oak forests alone, which once occupied 43.96 million hectares, now cover 32 million hectares and occupy 16.4 percent of the national territory, according to David Bray in the book Las empresas forestales comunitarias de México (Mexico’s community forestry companies).

Tropical mountain forests originally covered 3 million hectares, but their coverage has been reduced to 1.8 million, between primary and secondary vegetation, and still harbor 9 percent of the country’s floristic wealth, he points out.

The National Forestry Commission (Conafor) reports that between 2001 and 2021 the country had a loss of vegetation of 4,385,850 hectares, almost the equivalent to the surface of the state of Yucatan; the average annual deforestation was 208,850 hectares.

Luis Meneses, director of Conafor, maintains that during the current administration, deforestation is decreasing since in the last six years, the average was 250 thousand hectares per year and in the current administration it is 189 thousand 528. For this 2023, Conafor foresees a restoration of 55 thousand hectares, which is not even a third of what is lost on average per year.

In an interview, Meneses explains that “most of the deforestation is converted into grasslands, cut down for cattle, more than 75 percent is due to this activity, there is 20 percent that are converted into croplands. In that route goes most of the deforestation. From 2019 to 2022 the government restored 141 thousand hectares, by fires, and there are areas that are naturally restored.

Meneses affirms that the forestry policy “is one and has two instruments. One is Sembrando Vida and the other is Conafor, they have to be seen as a whole“. He assures that both strategies supposedly seek to strengthen the social economy of the Ejidos and communities.

He mentions that with Sembrando Vida, operated by the Welfare Secretariat, “500 thousand hectares of the 1.1 million hectares of the program have been reforested; the largest tree is five years old. In 2030 we will see a forest mass, what has already been reforested is already growing, and we have to take care of pests and fires“.

For its part, Conafor works with the Sustainable Forest Development for Well-Being program, with actions such as environmental services, fire management and sanitary measures, commercial forest plantations, and community forest management, he said.

Regarding the presence of organized crime in forest areas, Meneses points out that it has to be attacked in an inter-institutional manner, “it may be covering up activities in the forests, it may act by logging in some areas to obtain resources. In the forestry sector, organized crime does not operate by charging quotas; in the forestry industry it does, but above all, it operates in the agricultural sector, fundamentally in producers of larger sales or those linked to the international market“.

Conafor has a budget for this year of 2.5 billion pesos. These are limited resources based on all the tasks and objectives it must address, ranging from financing actions to support ejidos and forest communities to attacking problems such as pests and fires, and represents 70 percent of the budget it had in 2016, says Salvador Anta, of the Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Forestry.

“There is still a loss of cover, but there is also more degraded area. Support and subsidies to ejidos and forest communities have decreased, they are channeled to a few, and therefore there is less capacity to attend them in areas such as forest production, payment for environmental services, forest health or fire prevention,” Anta points out.

Santa Fe Mennonite Camp, Hopelchén, Campeche was flooded for more than three months. In November there was still significant waterlogging. Photo: Robin A. Canul Suarez.

He adds that there are areas at risk due to different factors. Deforestation is observed mainly in the Yucatan peninsula, Campeche is the state that has lost the most area due to the increase of crops such as transgenic soy and the growth of African palm; the increase of avocado orchards in Michoacan and Jalisco, as well as tourist developments in the Riviera Maya.

Tourism projects continue to grow on the coasts of Oaxaca and Guerrero, as well as in Jalisco and Sinaloa, and studies have identified a serious problem with the sale of ejido land on the peninsulas of Baja California and Yucatán.

TYT Newsroom

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