One of the truly wild places in Guatemala is the east-western mountain range that runs through the country’s southeast highlands. The mountains encompass part of the Baja Verapaz and Izabal departments at the eastern part of Guatemala City. Protection of the area is particularly important because it contains an estimated 60 percent of Guatemala’s remaining cloud forest. Because of its geographic isolation, and wide range of elevation, the Sierra is home to at least 885 species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. More than 17 distinct species of evergreen forest are endemic to the area. The area is considered as an irreplaceable seed resource for reforestation and agroforestry throughout the tropics. Although human intervention (almost 43,200 inhabitants (1990) live in the reserve) is critical to the range’s long-term protection, a great deal of the range’s habitats have been protected from agriculture by its distinctive natural features: steep hillsides, shallow soils, and changeable weather. Because the heart of the mountains is composed of jade and marble, mining has been carried out here for centuries. ( thus the name, which means mountain range of the mines). The reserve’s managers are engaged in environmental education for local community leaders, many of who are Kekchi Maya. The goal is to discourage ongoing migration into the forest and to establish sustainable agricultural activities instead. Ecotourism is considered an important economic alternative.