Celaque National Park is a national park in Lempira Department, western Honduras. It was established on 1 January 1987 and covers an area of 266.4 square kilometres. It includes Honduras’ tallest peak, called Cerro Las Minas or Pico Celaque, which reaches approximately 2,870 metres (9,416 ft) above mean sea level. It has an elevation ranging from 975 to 2,870 metres (3,199 to 9,420 ft). Celaque’s terrain is very rugged, two-thirds of the area has a slope greater than 60 degrees.
The park is classified as a cloud forest with a mean precipitation of 1,600 mm at lower altitudes and a mean of 2,400 mm at higher altitudes. The word celaque is reputed to mean caja de aguas in the local, but now extinct, indigenous Lenca language. Celaque’s nine rivers supplies water to 120 villages nearby including the district capital of Gracias. Celaque is high in biodiversity and is home to jaguars, pumas, ocelots and Bolitoglossa celaque, an endangered newt found only in the mountains of Celaque. However, Celaque was not always a recognized park.
Between 1970-1980 The Honduran Forestry Development Corporation (HFDC) lead intense logging throughout Celaques peaks. The result was a loss in biodiversity and vital resources to the communities. However, logging was not the only cause of loss of forests. The communities inside the parks perimeters have created open forest patches due to small-scale farming. The people of La Campa, a town close by, grew nervous and formed a grassroots organization to try to stop the logging. Their goal was met in 1987 when the National Congress of Honduras made Celaque a national park. By forming the park, some 266 square kilometres (65,730 acres) were nationally protected from logging, agriculture, outside incursion and market-related forestry exploitation.
The success of the park was unknown until recent studies. Between the years 1987-1998 it was found that the area of open forested land decreased while mature forests became the largest forest class in the park. Forest fragmentation (measurement of area of bare patches and distances from one patch to another) decreased in areas without villages but increased in inhabited areas. However, with further examination, these results are less impressive. In the 11-year period the environment of the park had changed dramatically. These results were found in high elevations, remote and uninhabited areas of the park and in areas where the environment under examination was previously established. Meaning that the increase in mature forests was found in areas that already had mature trees but not in areas where open forest or agriculture land had been previously.
Though the results of the parks conservation efforts were positive they arent enough to save Celaques biodiversity. More recent studies on Celaques Conservation efforts have shown less positive results. The change in the parks environment had slowed down after 1995. Though the park prohibits outside logging and agriculture, it does on restrict the communities that live inside the boundaries. The patchwork on the edges of the park had grown dramatically due to increase in community agriculture.
Deeper inside the park more agriculture land is being used and much of that land is using unsustainable fertilizers. Inhabitants have also grown intensely. 8 communities in Celaques upper third create a patchwork of villages. However, only 6% of the land is dedicated to small-scale farming and most of the damage is still being done through illegal logging and commercial agriculture. Due to the recent high demand of coffee beans, the slopes contain more coffee plantations than ever.