Last night we showed you a snippet of the Chiquibul Forest from above. Well, tonight we have the full story. FCD Rangers are constantly monitoring and patrolling the forest as best they can but Guatemalan poachers still keep crossing the border and pillaging Belizean resources. In fact, the incursions have increased this year in certain areas of the Chiquibul. Courtney Weatherburne went west yesterday to find out how serious it is and to examine the Guatemalan perspective on this issue.

Courtney Weatherburne reporting
Over 30 years, the Chiquibul Forest has been ruthlessly invaded and pillaged. Guatemalan poachers have extracted gold, timber, Xate and rare species and have destroyed countless acres of lush forest land for illegal farming in Belize, denuding many areas in the forest. It is a reality that forest Manager Derick Chan and his team confront every day. One of the ways this persistent problem is brought into perspective Is through an aerial assessment.

Courtney Weatherburne
"We are about a thousand feet in the air above the Chiquibul forest. Now we aren't juts up here for the breath taking view, FCD rangers are scanning the area for Guatemalan encroachments in the Chiquibul, an ever present threat to the protected area."

From this view, it's mostly an abundance of greenery, but if you look closely at certain areas you see the clearings and the patches, even a few Guatemalan settlements that are in Belizean territory.

And according to Chan, these settlers are spreading out into different areas of the forest and clearing land for their corn fields one of those areas is the Cebada Area.

Derick Chan, Manager, Chiquibul National Park
"All of that was made just this year, that large field over there was made just this year. Those ones in particularly go up to 4 kilometers inside Belize. The Chiquibul cave system is right underneath these big fields here."

That's the reason why the Cebada area is considered one of the most precious and bountiful areas in the Chiqiubul. One that is now being raided by the new Guatemalan communities that have settled near this area.

Courtney Weatherburne
"We just flew over the Cabada area where we have seen several clearings for agricultural crops. Tell us more about this, how severe this threat is."

Derick Chan, Manager, Chiquibul National Park
"Just this year, as I was mentioning to you, it was increased by 338 hectares and that is the area in particular that we saw there. For us it's very alarming, it's scary because despite us trying to communicate to these people, do our patrols and where we arrest them, inform them, educating them at the same time, this thing has continued. This area is alarming also because this is where the Chiquibul cave systems are. These are one of the most pristine areas that are found in the Chiquibul, so once we damage it leaves really large big scars of forest that were cut down and burnt."

Back on the ground, Chan explained to us that the best thing they can do in the case of the Cebada area is to try and monitor the patterns of movement, which in itself, is a difficult task.

Derick Chan, Manager, Chiquibul National Park
"All the agriculture incursions in the Chiquibul forest are caused by people living in settlements in our neighboring Guatemalan Petén, we are 100% sure of that. Whatever happens there, let's say in Guatemala, if there is a drought, if there is a movement of people, we can't really exactly tell what makes it change. There are some years that agriculture will be higher than other years. We say an aggression this year of the incursions. In particularly, this happened in the area we call Cabada."

And one of the most crucial steps in curbing these incursion is conducting strategic patrols. This is where the FCD Rangers need all the help they can get.

Derick Chan, Manager, Chiquibul National Park
"For this we require the support of the joint forces, of the forest department and the BDF. We also want to work more strategically this year to get them to be able to compromise and go out with us on time. If we do not get their support then we FCD's cannot do it alone because these areas are dangerous, their far away, you would require a lot of boots on the ground."

And they are getting help from their Guatemalan counterparts, Asociacion Balam. The Director of the Protection Program Jose Castillo, along with the Guatemalan media were also invited to the fly over session. Castillo says Guatemala does have a part to play in the ongoing cross border incursions that affect both countries.

Jose Castillo, Asociacion Balam
"For Guatemala, the theme of the communities that are near the border line, I believe it is very important theme and the Guatemalan government should address it with an integrated approach and in a civil manner , to find economic alternatives for these people so the Guatemalans who are lining near the border do not have to engage in illegal activities in the Chiquibul Reserve, and I say that it is a problem for Guatemala and Belize , these activities are the ones that deteriorate our resources, and we will end up without natural resources and that's the case for Guatemala and Belize."

Two countries with a shared environmental resource, and figuring out how to preserve it, is a problem confounding conservationists on both sides of the border.

The forest patrols are normally done between January and March.

Channel 7