Agriculture and Grazing
Considering both their extent and intensity, agriculture and grazing do not represent significant threats to the park. Nonetheless, isolated and low-impact cases could become larger problems if they are ignored. Most likely, the potential problems could be resolved by speaking with the long-term owners or residents of the old farmhouses within the park. INPARQUES' economic situation prohibits it from outright purchasing the properties. Also, as seen in other national parks, relocating park residents is not always a simple process and it certainly does not guarantee a harmonious resolution for the residents or park. The best option in this case may be to establish regulations regarding agriculture and grazing with those people who use land within the park for these purposes as soon as possible. A detailed study regarding current park residents' activities, and of nearby towns' economy and customs, would be extremely helpful when it comes time to search for alternative economic activities for park residents if and when it is decided to stop all agricultural activities there. Just because these activities are low-scale does not mean that they can be ignored.
Dinira's wildfires begin in nearby towns and spread up into the mountains' higher altitudes. The fires begin either after agricultural burns or they are accidental. Either way, a participatory educational campaign would help to lower the fire risk around the park.
Currently, INPARQUES does have access to funds (available from a unified command against forest fires) to help volunteers involved in fire-fighting activities. In towns where fires are more of a problem, it is possible to start an education campaign along with fire-fighting training. INPARQUES could offer an economic incentive in the form of a scholarship to those participating in fire fighting brigades. This format has been working well in Canaima National Park where EDELCA manages the most successful fire-fighting brigade in the country.
Exotic species introductions
The ecological impact from the eucalyptus and pine forests planted over 30 years ago on the mountains slopes is difficult to reverse. Nonetheless, it is possible to promote a long-term change by replacing these exotics with native trees. In Buenos Aires, there is a strong demand for firewood and wood construction materials. INPARQUES could give licenses to residents of nearby towns to cut down the exotic species (and subsequently sell the wood) while at the same time they must start a reforestation program using native species. As long as this plan is implemented following a thorough preliminary study, incorporating an educational component as well as truly including the local communities, the native forest will be better off in the long run.
In the Buenos Aires sector, a group of local volunteers built a wildfire lookout
tower using wood from the introduced pines (photo © César Aponte).
Unregulated tourism is also considered a minor threat since it is not frequent, it is localized, and it is possible to plan for the high tourism season to prevent problems. As was stated above, unregulated tourism activity and the resulting local impact on La Cascada del Vino recreation zone is due to lack of regulation and information and lack of personnel to attend to the visitors.
Garbage accumulation and overflow in the garbage cans recently was a serious problem. The superintendent resolved it by removing the garbage cans and informing the visitors that there was no garbage collection services. During December vacations in 2003, the superintendent and park volunteers advised visitors that they should bring in garbage bags to then carry out any trash that they created. This was a low-cost solution to the garbage problem.
In order to properly manage tourism, the park must determine the number of visitors and the amount of waste they leave. This information should then be used to create the rules that will govern tourism once the Park Use Regulations and Management Plan is designed.
Lack of security and effective control
Lack of security is Dinira's most serious problem and is due to a lack of personnel and regulations. Four park guards are urgently needed to ensure proper park security. The two volunteers should be hired as staff because of their long-term involvement and experience. It will also be necessary to encourage other volunteers to join a park guard corps.
Since 1999 the group, "Grupo Ecológico y Excursionista Dinira" has been voluntarily providing security and conducting preventative activities. Because there is a serious lack of funding available to contract new personnel, park users should be educated to conduct security and vigilance for the park in an effort to create a network of volunteer allies that could stay informed about park happenings and problems. A fast and economical way to get people involved is to sponsor clean-up workdays and provide informative talks during high tourism season. The environmental education division in Lara's State National Park Office could help organize such activities and local conservation groups or non-governmental organizations are potential partners.
During our field evaluation, we learned of a group of enterprising, young environmentalists from the town of Buenos Aires, who are involved in a variety of activities promoting better management of the park's natural resources. They plan to restore an old, abandoned farm school in order to educate kids about ecological agriculture. Some of these children could be trained as park guards and could receive scholarships for working with the fire-fighting brigades while waiting for a more opportune time to receive full employment.
The volunteers living in the Buenos Aires sector have put up several park signs, an observation tower,
and they actively collaborate to manage and educate visitors during peak visitation seasons (photo © César Aponte).