Help protect biodiversity and ecosystems through community-based conservation and sustainable development initiatives in mestizo and indigenous communities (read more below)
Support, interlink, and train Mesoamerican biologists, conservationists, environmental groups, and entrepreneurs in biodiversity monitoring, social research, conservation planning, and environmental education
(read more below)
Document, analyze, and publicize the biodiversity and unique ecosystems and habitats of Honduras and other Mesoamerican countries using scientifically sound methods, focusing particularly on endemics, endangered and threatened taxa, and emblematic species (read more below)
Document, Analyze, and Publicize Biodiversity and Unique Ecosystems:
We focus our efforts on four key ecosystems. However, the community-based conservation and development initiatives that we support often integrate various ecosystems across a landscape. This is because many important species, for example cycads or fruit-eating birds, range across more than one ecosystem, while each Mesoamerican geographic region--a valley, for example, or a mountain range--can contain numerous ecosystems. A single municipality or village watershed, for example, may contain cloud forest, pine forest, rain forest, and dry forest in an area no larger than a few thousand hectares!
The HOCC supports responsible specimen collecting where it is permitted. Specimens are necessary for identification and classification based on morphological and genetic characteristics; they are stored in local museums and herbaria to aid Honduran science, conservation, and environmental education. The HOCC is particularly interested in unknown and poorly-known species, particularly those that are endemic to Honduras or Mesoamerica. A better knowledge of biodiversity is the baseline necessary for more targeted conservation efforts. In addition, identification of endemic and unique species can help local communities better justify conserving their local forests.
We are intensely involved in Citizen Science initiatives, for example documentation of birds (eBird, for example), which means that, via our ORCHIDS Field Station, we support volunteer efforts to document flora and fauna and to train others to do so.
Associated research in contemporary, historic, and prehistoric human relationships with the environment make the HOCC a collaborative effort of wider interest to social science and the humanities, particularly in integrative studies of global change. Our efforts to identify and support local folk musicians as well as historical and archaeological sites led to the mayor’s declaring the official Gualaco Cultural and Natural Heritage Festival (DIA DE GUALACO) every year (starting in 2014) as way of rescuing endangered knowledge and protecting threatened places.
Support, Interlink, and Train Mesoamerican Biologists, Conservationists, Environmental groups, and Entrepreneurs:
The HOCC network helps bring together the skills and ideas of conservationists and sustainable development experts locally, nationally, and globally to facilitate research, planning, and education that is truly inclusive. We foster dialogues about conservation and development among a diversity of stakeholders and keep the focus on the needs of the people who inhabit the land. When the need arises for a specific skillset, the HOCC facilitates the identification and recruitment of professionals--field researchers, policy analysts, parks planners, and so forth--who can contribute. The HOCC's current group of affiliates includes members from universities, environmental groups, and government agencies in Honduras and in other countries to complement our members in local Honduran communities.
Addressing a critical need in biodiversity research and conservation, the HOCC supports the professional formation of local field researchers--parabiologists--without advanced degrees who are trained to assist in complex projects. Skills that we help develop include specimen identification, collection, and preservation, biodiversity monitoring, oral history interviews and other techniques in ethnoscientific data-collecting, collecting meteorological data, and so on. The HOCC network also includes professionals who are trained in product development and marketing of non-timber resources such as natural dyes, fibers, and resins, as well as environmental education, participatory mapping and GIS, sustainable ecotourism, and many other fields.
Our Environmental Education emphasis focuses on reaching extremely remote communities with our mobile team of local experts, our portable generator, a laptop and a projector. We focus on communities without electricity (still the majority in eastern Honduras), where children and adults have had little or no exposure to environmental education or video media, and where environmental projects have had minimal or no presence. On a typical day-long visit, we work in the morning with teachers and their classes in one-room schools, giving presentations, talking about flora and fauna, and doing dynamic exercises outside. In the afternoon, we do a nature hike and prepare for an evening meeting with the community, discussing topics of concern to the community (everything from logging and mining to watershed management and uncontrolled burning). We try to leave the community with a better sense of their environmental rights and responsibilities, and with concrete ways to contact us and network with us.
Before, during, and after our expeditions, we make it a point to talk to communities as much as possible about what we are doing, and, where feasible, to show them as well.
Help Protect Biodiversity and Ecosystems:
We support and advocate a wide range of community-based approaches to the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems, including, where appropriate, sustainable extraction by local people for subsistence uses as well as for economic benefit. Local families and communities are the best-fitted, if often most ill-equipped, actors to undertake conservation activities involving what they rightfully consider to be their resources. Municipalities that respond to the needs of villagers and private landowners and that work with national government agencies are supported directly by the HOCC in the form of collaboration with recognized local conservationists and entrepreneurs.
Dry Forest Conservation
Mesoamerican thorn forests and other tropical dry forest habitats, because they are often located close to major population centers, are under dire threat from cattle ranching, export agriculture, road-building, and dam-building. The HOCC focuses on understanding and promoting traditional methods of watershed management and community forestry as well as innovations such as private reserves. Our primary regional foci are the dry interior basins known as valles, particulary the Valle de Agalta, Valle de Gualaco, and the Valle de Aguan. These areas contain major populations of the endemic Honduran Emerald hummingbird and a host of other unique flora and fauna little-known to science. Our nascent ORCHIDS Field Station contains over 50 acres of restored tropical dry forest with trails and minimal infrastructure; our steering committee and network of local affiliate communities provide us access to thousands more acres of habitat.
Cloud Forest Conservation
Ethnic groups relying on Honduran cloud forests include Lenca, Tolupan, Pech, Chorti, and Ladino.
The HOCC supports buffer zone management and other activities in and around existing protected areas, as well as efforts to protect all currently unprotected cloud forests that are shown to have endemic biota. Microwatershed reserves (microcuencas) are particularly important, and many, many more of these need to be defined and delimited in coming years. The HOCC supports village-level ‘micro-hydro’ projects but opposes mini-hydro projects and road-building within protected areas.
The promotion of eco-friendly shaded coffee and a range of non-timber products are a primary concern. Small-scale ecotourism and agrotourism activities that actually benefit local entrepreneurs and communities are also important to us. In general, the HOCC focuses on those cloud forests that have been most neglected by conservation and development projects. Our ORCHIDS Field Station is situated at the terminus of trails accessing the Cordillera de Agalta Cloud Forest, Mesoamerica’s second-largest single intact block of cloud forest, with over 120,000 hectares of unbroken habitat spread across three national parks. In recent field seasons, we have led the first scientific expeditions to the high peaks of the Corozal cloud forest (Pico Bonito National Park), the Patuca National Park’s previously unknown cloud forest portion (Cerro Las Nubes), the low cloud forests of the Punta Piedra mountains in the southern Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve, the high peaks of the Montaña de Botaderos National Park, and the cloud forest remnants on top of the isolated Montaña de Jacaleapa / La Crudeza, as well as the extremely poorly known cloud forests of the Cerro del Diablo (Montañas del Carbon – Sierra del Río Tinto National Park), the low montane forests of Candeleros, Fray Pedro, and Comunayaca, and the comparatively well-known La Picucha sites (Sierra de Agalta National Park) and Cerro Agua Buena (El Boqueron National Park).
Pine Forest Conservation
In Honduras, ethnic groups relying on the interior pine-oak forests include Tolupan, Chortí, Lenca, Nahoa, Pech, and Ladino, while the Miskito depend on the Moskitia pine savanna. According to the 2007 Forestry Law, Honduran pine and pine-oak forests, which cover 60% of the country, should be managed sustainably for numerous local economic benefits that include watershed protection, timber, non-timber products, and biodiversity. While not neglecting these broader considerations, the HOCC focuses particularly on endangered and threatened fauna and flora--such as the Red-throated Caracara, Scarlet Macaw, the tree cycad Dioon mejiae, and the US Federally-endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler, as well as the preservation of the last remaining stands of old-growth pine in locations such as the Montaña de Botaderos National Park in the Bosque Modelo del Noreste de Olancho.
Rain Forest Conservation
Ethnic groups dependent on the Honduran rain forests include Pech, Tawahka, Miskito, and Ladino. Tropical humid forests, even within protected areas, are being converted to pasture and other uses far faster than are other ecosystems. Since the 1980s, Mesoamerican rain forests have received proportionately far more attention and funding than other ecosystems, yet they are more endangered than ever. The Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve is imperiled by ranching, clandestine hunting and fishing, subsistence agriculture, and narcotics trafficking, and other large areas are in similar shape. The Patuca Basin, including parts of the Patuca National Park, Rio Platano BR, and Tawahka-Asangni Biosphere Reserve, are threatened by a series of large hydroelectric projects. The HOCC supports advocacy and education to pressure international and national agencies to act swiftly and decisively to end or at least mitigate these threats. We have worked directly in the Rio Platano and Patuca reserves, as well as the rain forest portions of the Sierra de Agalta, Sierra del Rio Tinto, Montañas del Carbón, Botaderos, and Pico Bonito national parks.
Conservation of Specialized Habitats
In the region, comparatively few specialized habitats exist within protected areas, and overall they have been extremely neglected by conservationists. The HOCC advocates: working with ranchers in traditional range management to protect native savannas; strict protection of all cave systems; protection of high-elevation wetlands; protection of river and lake systems that includes effective monitoring prior to any hydroelectric ventures. Local communities are often highly concerned about effects of economic development on water resources in general, ranging from local swimming and watering holes to hot springs.