DOINews: DOI's Technical Experts Making a Difference in Latin America

Last edited 09/05/2019

Field exercises to assess mining impact to surface water
Students perform a field exercise on how to assess mining impacts to nearby surface water, as part of a three-week course titled "Certification Training Program on Enforcing Mining Laws." This training curriculum was designed and implemented through a partnership between DOI-ITAP, the Government of Colombia and a local university to enhance in-country capacity building over the long term. Photo by Victor Manuel Moreno Rengifo.
A meeting of the Maya Biosphere Reserve Multi-Sector Roundtable.
A meeting of the "Maya Biosphere Reserve Multi-Sector Roundtable," a successful public-participation venue, draws representatives from all levels of the public, private and community sectors, including Guatemala's Vice-President Roxana Baldetti. DOI-ITAP has supported this venue since its inception. This initiative is an important instance for consensus and decisions derived for improved protected area management in northern Guatemala. Photo by Guatemalan Presidential Social Communication Department.
Officials from USFWS and Chilean wildlife-enforcement officials looking at a table filled with species confiscated by Chilean Customs at the airport.
Participants from the CITES Best Practices Workshop in Chile pose for a photo after examining confiscated wildlife species provided by the Chilean Agricultural and Livestock Service. The workshop had 45 participants from 12 different organizations and was conducted in partnership with DO-ITAP, through USFWS, Chile's CITES Committee, among other organizations. Photo by Rosario Jimenes.

We often discuss the state of affairs of Hispanics in the United States. Seldom do we discuss Latin America, its different cultures, its ethnicity, its political affairs, and less, what the Department of the Interior is doing in the region. Today, wearing two hats, DOI employee and Latin American, I would like to share with you some of the extraordinary work that our DOI Technical experts, through the International Technical Assistance Program are doing in the region.

With funding from the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, ITAP has provided technical assistance through DOI employees, in-country staff, and governmental and nongovernmental partners to improve practices on renewable energy (Panama, Jamaica); wildlife trade and trafficking (Central America, Colombia, Peru, and Chile); governance and public participation (Guatemala); protected area and biodiversity conservation (Colombia, Peru, and Chile); glacier monitoring (Chile); and mining policy, best practices, and reclamation (Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Guatemala). ITAP's success in these areas is testament to the foundation of strong government-to-government partnerships it has built over the past 20 years.

In Central America, ITAP has been instrumental in the creation of the Central America and Dominican Republic Wildlife Enforcement Network to combat illegal wildlife trafficking. Referring to the importance of the network in the region, Costa Rican Environmental Prosecutor and Secretary Sergio Valdelomar has declared, “We have put together key working teams to combat environmental crimes in a more comprehensive manner.”

ITAP projects would not be possible without the expertise and passion of bureau staff. Patricia S. De Angelis, a botanist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is one of the scores of DOI employees who have worked to collaborate on natural resources “best practices” in the region. De Angelis, referring to work to improve the implementation of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), states that “ITAP's work provides a key component to the advancement of CITES in the region. For instance, ITAP has provided opportunities for regional dialogues between the CITES Scientific and Management Authorities and with the United States on issues of mutual interest. Such dialogues improve regional and multi-lateral coordination to better protect species that are in international trade, to address issues such as wildlife trafficking, and to support regional capacity and consensus-building at the international meetings of the CITES members countries.”

De Angelis' background in the region began during her years living in Nicaragua conducting Ph.D. research with the Miskito Indians. It is this experience that has motivated De Angelis to volunteer with ITAP. She expresses that she wants to give back to Latin America, saying, “My life is what it is today because of my experience there and the people I interacted with while living in Nicaragua.”

ITAP has also played an important role in supporting leaders in government, civil society and local communities in safeguarding important protected areas in Central America. Bayron Castellanos, DOI-ITAP partner in Guatemala from the nonprofit organization Asociación Balam, stresses the importance of ITAP's focus on collaboration, stating that, "Through this collaboration we have advanced on natural resources and cultural patrimony issues for the region, such as for the Maya Biosphere Reserve.”

ITAP is also working in the Andean Amazon addressing regional priorities, such as regulating extractive industries, combating wildlife trafficking, using scientific data for sound decision-making, building the capacity of indigenous communities, and strengthening a regional protected areas network. Alejandra Laina, a member of the DOI in-country team for the Andean Amazon region based in Colombia, emphasizes the empowerment that comes from ITAP's government-to-government partnerships. “ITAP works to strengthen capacity through national and international experts. This dynamic enables the development of joint strategies to, for example, mitigate the impact of mineral extraction on highly sensitive areas.”

As DOI's mission is diverse, so is ITAP's work in Latin America. ITAP is working with the Chilean government to improve mine-closure planning and financial-assurance mechanisms for mines, with technical expertise from the Bureau of Land Management and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Lacy Trapp from BLM Nevada, along with other DOI employees, conducted training last June in Chile on financial assurances in mine closure. Trapp proudly describes her service indicating, “Chile is just beginning to implement regulations for mine closure and financial assurance and has a large number of mine-closure cost estimates that need to be reviewed, approved and bonded. They have a long road ahead, and I am proud to be a part of their journey.”

On the same project, Cristobal Barros, DOI's in-country coordinator for Chile, commenting on ITAP's role in strengthening Chile's capacity to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, strengthen national park management, improve monitoring of glaciers, and regulate the mining sector, says: “The assistance DOI provides to the Chilean government strengthens the government's ability to protect the country's natural patrimony.” Barros notes that ITAP's work has achieved progress on several fronts, including better administration and concession operations at national parks, better ability to adapt to climate change through the study of glaciers, and the advancement of CITES implementation and enforcement in the country.

Today as a DOI employee and a Latin American, I am proud of the work my colleagues have carried out in this region, and I admire how nations throughout Latin America are improving best practices for natural-resource management, combating wildlife trafficking, land conservation, and renewable energy. I am looking forward to seeing more partnerships based on mutual interest to protect the rich natural resources of Latin America and to enhance the livelihoods of its people.

By: Isabel Long, management analyst, ITAP, DOI

Nov. 6, 2014

Related Link:


Was this page helpful?

Please provide a comment