150 years ago, England granted the Miskito people of Honduras rights over their own land. Unfortunately, that treaty has not been respected until a few days ago when the government officially returned over nearly one million hectares of rainforest along the country’s coast. The Miskito people number about 200,000 and live in about 128 communities in the forests of Honduras and Nicaragua.

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In recent decades, the Miskito people’s forest homes have been threatened by land speculators, loggers, and ranchers, who have settled there illegally, clearing forest and grazing cattle. From 1990 to 2005, Honduras lost 37.1 percent of its forests-one of the highest rates of deforestation in Latin America. But now this new handover will allow the Miskito to legally protect their land and even negotiate treaties with the United Nations.

Norvin Goff, the chairman of Miskitu Asla Takanka, a representative of the Honduran tribes, toldMongaBay.com that they hope to use their new position to spread awareness of climate change: “Now we will be able to teach others how we have protected our forests and natural resources, and benefit from our role in helping the world that wants so badly to stop destroying the forests so we can slow climate change.”

Via Environmental News Network

Lead image © Ben Britten