In Neltume, Chile, the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve’s mission is “to protect and conserve the Temperate Humid Forest, integrating the surrounding communities in order to improve the quality of life for present and future generations.” This mission clearly makes the connection between the area’s nature and community. As the Huilo Huilo Foundation, which supports local businesses and oversees the biological reserve, is closed, what will change?
The area was once home to an immense logging operation. In 2004, however, the biological reserve was established, which shifted the local economy to one of ecotourism. Now, with the threat of COVID-19, many local businesses face a great risk, as does the local wildlife.
This article focuses largely on the impact of COVID-19 on global wildlife. However, it is clear that this links closely to the economic strains that many communities face. This is especially true for the Huilo Huilo Foundation, which funds the reserve largely from profits made from their tourist-reliant partner businesses.
The Washington Post article, “Halt in ecotourism threatens conservation efforts worldwide,” does a great job of evaluating how communities’ hardships will lead them away from recent conservation efforts. But it does not assess how the pandemic will affect the organizations which oversee biological reserves and other protected areas globally.
This article made me think about how at-risk the Huilo Huilo Foundation and the local buisinesspeople are right now. Currently, the biological reserve is not scheduled to reopen until September or October, and likely only with decreased capacity. Could COVID-19 cost Neltume the biological reserve as a whole? Even if it doesn’t, how many of the businesses will be forced to close? Will ecotourism in Neltume ever return to where it was before the pandemic?
The article referenced in this post is available at this link.