Debt-for-nature swap will protect rainforests in Guatemala

About 20 percent of Guatemala’s debt to the United States will be forgiven in exchange for forest conservation efforts in the Central American nation, officials announced yesterday. It’s the largest debt-for-nature swap carried out under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1998, which allows debt owed to the U.S. to be invested in environmental protection. The U.S. government will donate about $15 million toward cancelling the debt, and The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International are each contributing $1 million; that money, along with interest it generates, will erase more than $20 million in debt and interest. Guatemala’s newly available funds will then be dedicated over the next 15 years to protecting threatened plants and wildlife in Guatemala’s rainforests, mangrove reserves, and mountains. “The areas protected in this agreement lie in the heart of Mayan civilization, and they are home to jaguars, scarlet macaws, harpy eagles, and countless other species,” said TNC President Steven J. McCormick.