Narco Cattle-Ranching in Guatemala's Sierra del Lacandon National Park




Liller, Louise

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This study explores deforestation in Sierra del Lacandón National Park in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Preserve. Central American protected areas are experiencing rapid deforestation due to cattle ranching, much of it driven by drug trafficking organizations. Through remote sensing, GIS, and a confidential report from individuals and organizations familiar with the park, this research explores spatial patterns of different drivers of deforestation. While cattle ranching is the main driver of deforestation within Sierra del Lacandón, not all areas are experiencing cattle ranching in the same way. Data from the south-east area of the park show confirmed farming and ranching together. This research theorizes that population pressures are driving deforestation in this area. The eastern section of the park, identified as narco-compromised, shows clear evidence of the large-scale cattle ranching operations that are associated with narco-trafficking. There are few farming locations in this zone. This is evidence of narco-cattle ranching and territory control. The central area of the park, far from population centers, is experiencing deforestation and forest fragmentation that this research classifies as “suspected ranching.” These patterns indicate land speculation, another way that drug trafficking organizations gain control of protected area lands.



Guatemala, deforestation, Narco-trafficking, Applied Geography


Liller, L. (2022). Narco cattle-ranching in Guatemala's Sierra del Lacandon National Park. Master of Applied Geography Degree, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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