1992 Protected Areas of the World: A review of national systems
Area 112,088 sq. km
Population 5,138,000 (1990) Natural increase 3% per annum
Economic Indicators GDP: GNP: US$ 900 per capita (1989)
Policy and Legislation The 1982 constitution declares all natural resources to be
state property, and the rational use of such resources to be in the national interest. The National
Development Plan (Plan Nacional de Desarrollo) includes amongst its objectives the rational use
of natural resources in order to ensure their continuity. The state is obliged to conserve the
environment, is responsible for imposing regulations on natural resource use, and is empowered
to create protected areas.
The Advanced Council of Economic Planning (Consejo Superior de Planificación Económica
(CONSUPLANE) has produced the National Conservation Strategy which states that a National
System of Protected Areas (Sistema Nacional de Areas Protegidas) must be established
(Campanella et al., 1982; Barborak et al. 1984).
Current forest policy dates back to 1986 and was formulated in accordance with the National
Development Plan. Its aim is to ensure the continuity of forest resources through rational
exploitation, conservation, and improvement of forest resources by means of current forestry
legislation and the application of social integration projects by the national forestry
There is no systematic organisation of environmental legislation. Provisions for environmental
protection and natural resources occur in a number of different legislative acts, such as the Water
Law (Ley de Aguas) (1927) which regulates the use of public water resources; the current
Fishing Law (Ley de Pesca), Decree No. 154 (1959) which protects marine wildlife and
ecosystems; and the Mining Code (Código de Minería) Decree No. 143 (1968) which merely
mentions hunting or reserved zones (zonas vedadas o reservadas) to protect forest, archaeological
or zoological heritage.
The first regulations for the establishment of protected areas are given in the Forestry Law (Ley
Forestal) Decree 85 (1971), which declares the Secretariat of Natural Resources (Secretaría de
Recursos Naturales) responsible for the development of national parks and equivalent reserves,
and establishes a methodology for their selection and development. However, detailed definitions
of the different management categories are not given. Forest exploitation and commercialisation
are to be rationalised, and multiple-use forest reserves incorporating recreational activities and
environmental protection are encouraged. Forested areas within the national forest estate are
classified according to use, and all forested land for 250m on either side of any water source and
for 150m around lakes and on either side of rivers and streams is protected.
Decree-Law No. 103 (1974) provided for the establishment of the Honduran Forest Development
Corporation (Corporación Hondureña de Desarrollo Forestal) (COHDEFOR), and
thenationalisation of the forest industry and all trees with economic value. The objectives of
COHDEFOR include ensuring rational use of forest resources and integrating forestry practices
into the national economy. One of the principal projects of COHDEFOR, the Social Forestry
System (Sistema Social Forestal), is described.
Decree No. 123 (1974) provided for the creation of the General Directorate for Forest Resources
and Wildlife (Dirección General de Recursos Forestales y Vida Silvestre) (RENARE) within the
Secretariat of Natural Resources (Secretaría de Recursos Naturales), to be vested with forest
protection and conservation responsibilities, including the management of national parks and other
protected areas. However, owing to the lack of political support, RENARE never undertook these
functions effectively, and natural resource protection has remained the responsibility of
COHDEFOR (Yates, 1987). The exact distribution of responsibilities for protected areas and
natural resources is ambiguous. Decree No. 74-91 (1991) dissolves RENARE and transfers its
responsibility for protected areas to the Department of Natural Areas and Fauna (Departamento
de Areas Silvestres y Fauna) within COHDEFOR (J. Trinidad, pers. comm., 1992). Details of
this recent decree are not currently available.
Protected area establishment and forest resource regulation are governed by the General Forestry
Regulation, Resolution No. 634 (Reglamento General Forestal, Acuerdo No. 634) of 9 April
1984, which details the principles of the 1971 Forestry Law and of Decree No. 103 providing
for the creation of COHDEFOR. The national forest estate is defined, and details of the forest
classification system of the 1971 forestry law are given (see Annex). National forested areas are
divided into protected forest zones (zonas protegidas forestales) for protection purposes; zones
of forestry interest (zonas de interés forestal) for productive purposes; and non-classified forest
areas (areas forestales no-clasificadas). Provision is made for the creation of national parks,
natural monuments and other protected areas (collectively known as protected forest zones), and
the processes for their selection and establishment are set out. Private land may be expropriated
for their establishment.
In 1987, the Cloud Forest Law (Ley de Bosques Nublados) Decree No. 87-87 was passed. This
law declares the protection of cloud forest ecosystems to be in the national interest, and provides
for the creation of 11 national parks, eight wildlife refuges and 18 biological reserves in cloud
forest areas. All these areas are to be administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources through
RENARE, in coordination with various other institutions and local authorities. Around each area
a permanent protected zone (zona protegida a perpetuidad) is established, within which no
agricultural activities are permitted, buffer zones, in which regulated activities are permitted.
However, Decree No. 87-87 is incomplete as no details of the above management categories are
given in the law and no regulations relating to it have been passed.
Problems arise from a marked lack of environmental legislation and inconsistency among the
existing legislative acts applying to natural resources (Yates, 1987). There is no legislation that
would allow for the formulation of an environmental planning system; for delimiting the
responsibilities of the various governmental and non-governmental institutions involved in natural
resource management; and for establishing a national system of protected areas with coordinated
management. Although the Forestry Law provides for the creation of various categories of
protected areas, the definitions are unclear and do not bear relation to internationally
accepteddefinitions (Yates, 1987). There is no legislation providing for wildlife
In all the areas of natural resource management except forestry new laws have been proposed.
Two projects to revise environmental legislation were proposed and discussed in 1985 in
collaboration with the FAO. The Project for the Law for the Protection of the Environment and
Natural Resources (Anteproyecto de Ley de Protección del Medio Ambiente y de los Recursos
Naturales) was formulated to coordinate all provisions relating to the environment into one legal
instrument. The Project for the General Fishing Law (Proyecto de Ley General de Pesca) is
intended to revise the 1959 fishing legislation, and contains provisions for protected marine zones
(Rendón, 1986). However, of these proposed laws, only that for the creation of the Department
of Natural Areas and Fauna has come into effect yet.
International Activities Honduras is one of the few countries in the Americas that
has not signed the Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western
Hemisphere (Convención sobre la Protección de la Flora, de la Fauna y de las Bellezas
Escénicas Naturales de los Países de América) (Western Hemisphere Convention). Honduras
ratified the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage
(World Heritage Convention) on 8 June 1979 with one natural site inscribed to date, and it
participates in the Unesco Man and the Biosphere Programme with one reserve
accepted in 1980.
Honduras, through the National Secretariat for Natural Resources (Secretaría de Recursos
Naturales), participates in the Latin American Network of Technical Cooperation in National
Parks, Other Protected Areas, Flora and Wildlife Programme of the FAO (Red Latinoamericana
de Cooperación Técnica en Parques Nacionales, Otras Areas Protegidas, Flora y Fauna
Silvestres). This programme aims to coordinate the activities of participating countries, to assist
in the implementation and functioning of a coherent and effective national system of protected
areas in each country (FAO, n.d.). Honduras participates in the FAO Tropical Forestry Action
In 1987 the governments of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador signed an agreement to create
the trinational cloud forest biosphere reserve El Trifinio or La Fraternidad in the mountainous
region where the three nations meet. Efforts are now being made to elaborate a cooperative
management plan for the reserve that will integrate the local populations of all three nations, and
to obtain official recognition as an international biosphere reserve (Mardones, 1988; Ugalde and
The Honduran and Nicaraguan governments have initiated projects for a joint management
agreement for a large tract of land along this border. A similar agreement has been proposed
between Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador for the shared mangrove estuaries and coastal
zone of the Gulf of Fonseca (J. Barborak, pers. comm., 1992; Ugalde and Godoy, 1992).
Administration and Management Current legislation states that the Secretariat of
Natural Resources (Secretaría de Recursos Naturales) is responsible for natural resources. The
control and exploitation of forest resources and the administration of natural areas are the
responsibility of COHDEFOR, a semi-autonomous institute responsible for implementing national
forestpolicies in coordination with national development plans (J. Trinidad, pers. comm., 1992).
In practice, natural resources have been managed by the various governmental sectors with
interest in a particular resource, and responsibility is divided accordingly.
RENARE was intended to manage activities relating to the protection and conservation of fish,
wildlife and the environment, including protected areas. However, owing to the lack of political
support or interest, RENARE never undertook any of these functions. Although many laws
providing for the creation of individual protected areas cite RENARE as the institute responsible
for implementing the legislation and managing the area, in effect this was not carried out (Yates,
1987). This has resulted in the various institutions previously in charge of natural resources
continuing their activities with little or no coordination between them. Now that COHDEFOR
takes sole responsibility for protected areas, the situation may improve (J. Trinidad, pers. comm.,
Since 1991, COHDEFOR has been responsible for formulating and implementing national
policies and laws regarding the protection, conservation and management of wildlands and
wildlife; promoting and coordinating scientific research activities; encouraging the participation
of urban and rural populations in conservation activities; and developing a National System of
Protected Wildlands (Sistema Nacional de Areas Silvestres Protegidas) (Muñoz, 1991; J.
Trinidad, pers. comm., 1992).
In 1991, the first restructuring of COHDEFOR took place with the creation of the Protected
Areas Section (Sección de Areas Protegidas) and the Wildlife Section (Sección de Vida
Silvestre) within the Department of Natural Areas and Fauna. As part of a plan to develop
projects to strengthen current protection measures, seven priority protected areas were identified
for immediate support, in five different forestry regions (Muñoz, 1991).
At the national level, COHDEFOR comprises nine forestry regions (regiones forestales)
throughout the country (Anon., 1988). As part of its forest conservation programme
COHDEFOR, has implemented the Social Forestry System, as detailed in the 1984 General
Forestry Regulations, by which local rural populations are directly responsible for many aspects
of forest management. The object of the Social Forestry System is to increase the effectiveness
of forest protection, generate employment and improve the standard of living within local rural
populations around forested regions. COHDEFOR formulates action plans and strategies in
conjunction with the local cooperatives, and lends assistance as necessary. Local groups
participate in the activities of the State Forestry Guard (Guardia Forestal Estatal) which is
responsible for vigilance and regulation enforcement in forested areas.
The Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e
Historia) (IHAH) manages the Ruinas de Copán Natural Monument (Barborak et al.,
1984), and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras manages Cuero y Salado Wildlife
Reserve (M. Durón, pers. comm., 1992).
There are a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in conservation. One
of the most active, longest established and influential is the Honduran Ecology Association
(Asociación Hondureña de Ecología) (AHE) which supports and promotes the establishment
andmaintenance of protected areas through publications and public awareness campaigns (Cruz,
1986). Since 1985, the AHE has been directly involved with managing El Tigre National Park
in coordination with park personnel (AHE, 1987). The AHE formulated the proposal to protect
cloud forest regions, and it was through the work of this NGO that 37 cloud forest areas were
declared as national parks, wildlife reserves and biological reserves under the 1987 legislation.
The Cuero y Salado Foundation (Fundación Cuero y Salado) runs research and conservation
projects in the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge.
Problems in natural resource administration arise from the lack of public awareness of
conservation organisations and the lack of training and motivation. There is a considerable
amount of ambiguity regarding the distribution of responsibilities, and a marked lack of
collaboration between the respective institutions involved in natural resource management,
precluding effective protected area management (Yates, 1987).
Systems Reviews Honduras is the second largest country in Central America and
the most mountainous, with over 75% of the land having a gradient greater than 20%
(Campanella et al., 1982). The only flat areas are the narrow coastal plains along the
Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Fonseca in the Pacific Ocean, and a few interior valleys (AHE,
1987; Campanella et al., 1982). The country is divided naturally into four
geographically distinct regions: the highlands; interior valleys; lowlands of the Caribbean; and
the lowlands of the Pacific (Campanella et al., 1982).
The Caribbean lowlands account for around 16.4% of total land area and, together with the
valleys connecting the Caribbean coastal plains, they constitute the most fertile soils in Honduras
(Campanella et al., 1982); banana and palm cultivation is extensive. The most eastern
part of the region, and extending down into Nicaragua, is collectively known as La Mosquitia
or the Moskito Coast. It is characterised by natural pine forest plains interspersed with tropical
forests, and has the richest biodiversity and the lowest population density in the country with a
long history of indigenous civilization (Campanella et al, 1982; Herlihy and Herlihy, n.d.). Río
Plátano Biosphere Reserve was established in 1980 in this region to protect both natural resources
and local populations of Miskito, Pech and Garífuna indians. However, colonisation into the
area has become an increasing threat to the integrity of the natural ecosystems and the indigenous
communities (Herlihy and Herlihy, n.d.).
The highlands of the interior account for 81.7% of total land area. The dominant vegetation is
pine forest which makes the soil acid and unsuitable for agriculture. Since colonial times, cattle
ranching has been the primary economic activity in the region (Campanella et al,
1982). The soils of the interior valleys are more fertile, and intensive cultivation of vegetables
and sugar occurs.
The Pacific lowlands along the Gulf of Fonseca are bordered by mangrove forests and narrow
coastal plains. Cattle ranching, cotton, sugar and vegetable production are extensive in this region
(Campanella et al., 1982). Around 60% of the total population of Honduras lives in
rural regions and 40% in urban areas (Anon., 1988).
The marine influence, the mountainous topography and the various soil types have given rise toa
great variety of ecosystems. Using the Holdridge (1967) classification system, eight different life
zones are found in the country. The humid and very humid life zones of the Caribbean slopes
cover over 75% of total area (Campanella et al., 1982).
The development of protected areas has been a slow process (Cruz, 1986). A significant advance
was made with the passing of the 1987 legislation and subsequent protection of a number of cloud
forest areas. However, the lack of national environmental policy and planning, and the absence
of coherent legislation providing for standardisation of protected area management has precluded
the creation of a coordinated national protected area system (Yates, 1987).
The estimated total coverage of protected areas is around 3 million ha, or 27% of country area
(COHDEFOR, n.d.). A more accurate and widely-accepted figure for percentage coverage is
22.6% (COHDEFOR, n.d.; S. Midente, pers. comm., 1992). No systematic review of the
current situation of protected areas is currently available.
The protected area categories employed are not clearly defined in the legislation, which causes
some confusion over protection and management of the areas. For example, forest reserves
(reservas forestales) may also be referred to as protected forest zones (zonas forestales
protegidas), reserved forest zones (zonas forestales reservadas), and protected and reserved zones
(zonas protegidas y reservadas). Without a precise definition in the legislation creating protected
areas, different uses of the same category result from total protection in one area to temporary
protection for future exploitation in an another (Cruz, 1986; Yates, 1987).
Protected area management is further hindered by the lack of adequate administrative legislation
providing for the effective functioning of governmental organisations. There is a great need for
new legislation to clarify the situation, and to assign responsibilities to specific institutions (Yates,
1987). However, COHDEFOR is now beginning to operate under modern legislation and this
situation may be improving (see Policy and Legislation).
Corporación Hondureña de Desarrollo Forestal (COHDEFOR), Aptdo 1378, TEGUCIGALPA
Departamento de Vida Silvestre y Recursos Ambientales (RENARE), Ministerio de Recursos
Naturales Renovables, Blvd. Miraflores, Aptdo 309, TEGUCIGALPA (Tel: 327828/384237;
FAX: 324054; Tlx: 8071 Serena)
Asociación Hondureña de Ecología (AHE), Apdo T-250, Toncontín, TEGUCIGALPA
Fundación Cuero y Salado, Apdo 122, La Ceiba, ATLANTIDA (Tel: 43 0329)
AHE (1987). Ecología. Boletín informativo de la Asociación Hondureña de
Ecología (AHE), Tegucigalpa.14 pp.
Anon. (1988). Mesa redonda; participación internacional en el desarrollo forestal de
Honduras. República de Honduras. 206 pp.
Barborak, J., Morales, L., and MacFarland, C. (1984). Plan de Manejo y Desarrollo del
Monumento Nacional Ruinas de Copán. IHAH/CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica. 156
Campanella, P., Dickinson, J., DuBois, R., Dulin, P., Glick, D., Merkel, A., Pool, D.,
Rios,R., Skillman, D., Talbot, J. (1982). Honduras. Perfil ambiental del país: un estudio de
campo. Resumen ejecutivo. US-AID. 201 pp.
COHDEFOR (n.d.). Areas protegidas de Honduras. Departamento de Areas Protegidas y Vida
Silvestre, orporación Hondureña de Desarrollo Forestal (COHDEFOR). 12 pp.
Cruz, G.A. (1986). Guia de los parques nacionales, refugios de vida silvestre, reservas
biológicas y monumentos naturales de Honduras. Asociación Hondureña de Ecología,
Tegucigalpa, Honduras. 49 pp.
FAO (n.d.). La red latinoamericana de cooperación técnica en parques nacionales, otras áreas
protegidas, flora y fauna silvestres. Oficina regional de la FAO para América Latina y el Caribe,
Santiago, Chile. 8 pp.
Herlihy, P.H. and Herlihy, L.H. (n.d.). Herencia de nuestro pasado: Reserva de la Biósfera del
Río Plátano. WCI, WWF, ROCAP, CCC, COHDEFOR/AID. 26 pp.
Holdridge, L.R. (1967). Life zone ecology; Revised edition. Tropical Science Centre, San José,
Costa Rica. 206 pp. (Unseen)
Mardones, C. (1988). Trifinio: un desafío de la conservación para tres países. Flora y fauna
y áreas ilvestres 3(7). Oficina Regional de la FAO para América Latina y el Caribe, Santiago,
Chile. Pp. 18-22.
Muñoz, E. (1991). Perfil general del departamento de áreas protegidas y vida silvestre. 8
Rendón, J. (1986). Legislación de pesca y legislación del medio ambiente y vida silvestre,
informe técnico TCP/HON/4509 (A). Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura
y la Alimentación, Roma. 32 pp.
Ugalde, A. and Godoy, J.C. (1992). Regional Review: Central America. IUCN Regional
reviews. IV World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas, Caracas, Venezuela, 10-21
February 1992. Pp. 13.3-13.27.
Yates, E. (1987). Perspectiva del derecho de recursos naturales en Honduras. Tegucigalpa. 27
Definitions of protected area designations, as legislated, together with authorities responsible for
Title : Reglamento General Forestal (General Forestry Regulation), Resolution No. 634
Date: 17 July 1984
Brief description: Develops the principles of the 1971 Forestry Law (Ley Forestal)
and the 1974 Law for the Honduran Forestry Development Corporation (Ley de la Corporación
Hondureña de Desarrollo Forestal) (COHDEFOR). The structure and function of COHDEFOR
is given. The national forestry estate is classified according to use, and regulations are detailed.
Provision is made for the creation of national parks and other protected areas as part of the
national forest estate, and definitions are given.
Administrative authority: COHDEFOR is responsible for implementing provisions
of the legislation including the administration and management of protected areas.
CLASSIFIED FOREST AREA (AREA FORESTAL
Protected Forest Zone (Zona Forestal Protegida) An area of public or
private forest declared to be of great importance for the conservation of the natural habitats,
water or soils. - The following areas are particularly to be considered for designation as
protective forest zones: mountains and springs; water sources; water basins; areas around lakes
and water resources, permanent and temporary water courses; forested areas that merit
classification as national parks or other protected spaces. The following protected areas are
considered to be protected forest zones:
Parque Nacional (National Park) An area of exceptional natural beauty,
forest cover or natural ecosystems particularly primitive ecosystems, unaltered by human activity,
to be protected for its floral or faunal species richness. - Access to the area and exploitation of
natural resources are strictly regulated.
Monumento Natural (Natural Monument) Those natural formations,
accidents or elements such as outstanding trees, caves or waterfalls, that are located in forested
areas whose natural characteristics merit it special protection. -
Sitio Natural de Interés Nacional (Natural Site of National Interest)
A natural area with defined limits that, although it does not meet the necessary conditions to be
declared a national park, it merits protection to ensure that it remains in its natural state.
In all protected forest zones including national parks and natural protected spaces, no activities
are permitted that would alter the vegetation, wildlife, scenery or soil, or decrease water
resources unless specified in the management plans approved by the stateforest administration.
In national parks and natural protected spaces recreational activities are permitted only with prior
authorisation from COHDEFOR. Construction of buildings for touristic purposes is permitted
only on cooperative agreement between COHDEFOR and the Honduran Tourism Institute
(Instituto Hondureño de Turismo). Scientific investigation is the only other activity permitted
within the areas.
Zone of Forestry Interest (Zona de Interés Forestal) An area of public
or private forest classified according to its relevant economic interest particularly for extraction
NON-CLASSIFIED FOREST AREA (AREA FORESTAL NO CLASIFICADA)
A private or publicly owned forested area not included in either of the above
categories, the function of which has not yet been determined.
Citation for 1992 Protected Areas of the World: A review of national systems:
IUCN (1992). Protected Areas of the World: A review of national systems. Volume 1: Indomalaya, Oceania, Australia and
Antarctic. Prepared by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC). IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
IUCN (1992). Protected Areas of the World: A review of national systems. Volume 2: Palaearctic. Prepared by the World
Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC). IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. xxviii+556pp.
IUCN (1992). Protected Areas of the World: A review of national systems. Volume 3: Afrotropical. Prepared by the World
Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC). IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. xxii+360pp.
IUCN (1992). Protected Areas of the World: A review of national systems. Volume 4: Nearctic and Neotropical. Prepared by
the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC). IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. xxiv+460pp.
Fuente: Union Internacional para la Consevacion de la Naturaleza (UICN)