BELIZE NATIONAL PARKS, NATURAL RESERVES, & WILDLIFE SANCTUARIES

RIO BRAVO CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT AREA

ESTABLISHMENT HISTORY
Created in 1988 by a purchase agreement between Gallon Jug Agroindustries and Programme for Belize for 110044 acres of land comprising the northern section of the Gallon Jug property. Subsequently enlarged by the donation of 42007 acres by Coca-Cola Foods Inc. in 1990, a further donation by Coca-Cola Foods Inc. of 52015 acres in 1992, purchase from New River Enterprises Ltd. of 14011 in 1994 and the signing of a purchase agreement with New River Enterprises Ltd. for an additional 12798 acres also in 1994. All outstanding payments under the purchase agreements were completed by December 1995. Management responsibility was assumed on signing each purchase agreement. Programme for Belize is a Belizean NGO constituted as a nonprofit company and holds the land in trust for the people of Belize under the terms of a formal Memorandum of Agreement with the Government of Belize. The Memorandum of Agreement also provides for continuity of conservation management, stating that the land must be passed to another organization of similar aims if PFB must relinquish ownership.

CURRENT AREA
From property surveys, the reserve covers 230875 acres. When calculated on GIS, the area derived is 245822 acres, according to the LIC.

JUSTIFICATION
It is the largest private reserve in Belize and protects extensive areas of various habitats. Its northern location makes it important for the conservation of Yucatan and Peten endemics. Its position on the Guatemalan border makes it important for bi-national conservation efforts.

HABITATS
Broadleaf (including riparian) forest, savanna, marsh forest.

HOLDRIDGE LIFE ZONE
Subtropical Moist.

ZOOGEOGRAPHICAL AFFINITIES
Peten.

WILDLIFE
Inventories have been undertaken for all vertebrate groups with the exception of the fishes. Invertebrate inventories are limited to the lepidoptera and some coleopteran groups. Over 70 mammal species (of which over 50% are bats) have been recorded. Over 390 bird species have been recorded, of which over 25% are nearctic migrants. These also include a number of species of special concern, and the Yellow-headed Parrot, an endemic vulnerable to the local pet trade, deserves special mention. Game birds are also conspicuous on the site, where populations appear to be responding to unproved hunting control. Morelet's Crocodile, a regional endemic, is common in all the water bodies and the Central American River Turtle, a regional endemic threatened throughout its range, is common in the deeper lagoons and rivers. The principal feature of the site is that it carries healthy populations of all the characteristic species in the community including the full complement of top predators. The area displays a complex mosaic of vegetation types created by strong relationship between vegetation type and local topography, and 22 vegetation types are currently recognized for mapping purposes. In general terms, the most extensive vegetation cover consists of variants of broadleaf forest. These are traditionally believed to contain the richest Mahogany resource in Belize, and have been logged for over 150 years. They are also noted for their stocks of Sapodilla, from which chicle is tapped. Seasonally waterlogged forests are also extensive, as are open pine woodlands, savanna and herbaceous swamp formations. The site is considered to carry the most diversity in vegetation communities of any protected area in the country and makes an important contribution to protected area coverage for 6 of them. Some 230 tree species have been recorded to date and the total woody flora is estimated at 250-300 species. Comprehensive inventory of the non-woody flora has not yet been undertaken. As an extension of the Peten, a recognized centre of plant biodiversity, the level of regional endemicity is relatively high.

LOCAL POPULATION
The employees of PFB and their families, constitute the only population permanently resident on the site. A small number of unauthorized farmers have been resettled following compensation and provision of permanent title to plots of equivalent quality outside the boundary. The Blue Creek Mennonite farming community (population 567) is to the north of the site.

PHYSICAL FEATURES & CLIMATE
The entire area is a continuation of the Yucatan Platform, underlain by limestones and marls deposited from the Cretaceous to the early Pleistocene. Alluvial sands have been deposited over the limestones over extensive areas during the Pleistocene. The principal topographical features are a series of escarpments aligned southwest-northeast, which also guide the drainage of the Rio Bravo, Booth's River and New River systems. The "Bravo Hills" land system on the western part of the site is relatively elevated with rolling, often rugged, relief and no permanent surface drainage. The Rio Bravo escarpment, with cast-facing slopes rising up by 525ft above sea level, is the most marked topographical feature. The eastern part of the site lies in the "Northern Coastal Plain' land system. This is an area of subdued relief rarely rising above 130ft elevation, with permanent surface drainage and extensive wetlands. The New River Lagoon is the largest inland water body in the country. 6 sod suites have been identified, subdivided into 17 subsuites. These range in qualities from fertile to very infertile and from waterlogged to seasonal droughtiness. The area is subject to a 3-month dry season between February and April and a 2-peaked wet season with highest rainfall in June and October There are wide variations from this basic pattern between years. Annual rainfall is approximately 61-63 inches per year. The coolest period is from November to January, with an average temperature range from 21-26.5C; the warmest period is April- May when average maximum temperatures rise to 31.5C. Extreme recorded temperatures range from 9C to 38C. Coldest conditions occur during the northern winter when cold airflows associated with anticyclonic weather systems cross the country. They are characterized by storms, rain, and cool, dank, overcast weather. Although only persisting for a few days, several "northers" may be expected in any year. The area is also subject to occasional tropical storms and hurricanes. Although only one hurricane is known. to have passed directly over the site over the past century virtually all larger trees show evidence of repeated storm damage. Overall elevation of the site ranges from 13-790ft.

VISITOR FACILITIES
The La Milpa Field Station provides board and lodging for up to 30 visitors. There is also a trail system and station staff serve as guides. Visitor levels are roughly 1200 per year, of whom approximately 50% are Belizean nationals. These figures include day visitors coming to the site through the Education and Outreach Programme. Courses for foreign and local students on tropical forest ecology are also ran from the La Milpa Field Station. Visitor levels are rising and upgraded visitor and interpretation facilities are being built on the site. A similar facility is planned for the Hill Bank Field Station while upmarket tourist facilities are also under consideration. Use of "green technologies" - solar and wind power, composting toilets - are being maximized in the new visitor buildings.

CULTURAL FEATURES
The cultural heritage of the area is extraordinarily rich. Over 60 Mayan sites have so far been located, ranging from major ceremonial centres, and elite dwellings, to field and terrace systems, to industrial sites producing stone tools. House mounds are almost ubiquitous. La Milpa, on the western part of the site, is considered the third largest ceremonial centre in Belize while Dos Hombres, an elite "palace", approaches La Milpa in extent. Most of the visible architecture dates from the Late Classic (8th - 9th century AD), when it is believed that all available resources were exploited to the maximum, but the archaeological record extends from pre-ceramic to the European contact period. During the 19th and 20th century the area formed the principal mahogany forest of the Belize Estate and Produce Company, an important influence on the economic and social development of British Honduras/Belize, and many relics remain. Colonial land use has not yet been examined in detail but the physical evidence, when taken with the documentary record, promises to give valuable insights into the period.

BELIZE NATIONAL PARKS, NATURAL RESERVES, & WILDLIFE SANCTUARIES

Belize Parks Home / Bacalar Chico / Bird Sanctuaries / Burdon Canal Nature Reserve / Blue Hole National Park / Great Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef / Chiquibul National Park and Caracol / Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary / Columbia River Forest Reserve / Community Baboon Sanctuary / Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary / Five Blues Lake National Park / Glover's Reef Marine Reserve / Guanacaste National Park / Half Moon Caye Natural Monument / Hol Chan Marine Reserve / Laughing Bird Caye / Marco Gonzales / Mexico Rocks / Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve / Payne's Creek National Park / Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area / Shark Ray Alley / Shipstern Nature Reserve / Turneffe Atoll /

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