A Visit to Beef National Park

Michael Stoll, for the Pulitzer Center
Laguna Del Tigre National Park, Guatemala

The sign announcing the entrance to Laguna del Tigre National Park is large and impressive. The problem is, that's about the only visible sign that you're entering a "core protected area" of a massive national wilderness preserve.

We traveled about five hours by four-wheel-drive pickup truck on drenched dirt roads with four police officers riding in the back through kilometer after endless kilometer of cattle pasture clearly converted recently from primary tropical forest. The cows munched grass that had grown up among the charred stumps of massive trees that once formed a canopy over this vast terrain dotted by wetlands and savanna. Though the radio station was tuned to a popular rock/salsa/reggaeton station, whose name translated to "Mahogany 94.5," all the mahogany trees, and tropical cedars, had long since been cut down along the entire route ...