The National Protected Areas Secretariat project and the National Use Policy and Planning Framework consultancy on Sustainable Land Management were introduced today at the Biltmore Plaza. Dr. Colin Young is the Program Director for the National Protected Areas Policy.

Dr. Colin Young; Program Director, National Protected Areas Policy

“We are informing our stakeholders of the Government of Belize via the Ministry of Natural Resources setting up of the secretariat to streamline the coordination of implementing the National Protected Areas Policy and System Plan. The policy provides the enabling environment that demonstrates government’s commitment to the policy and savings plan. The plan itself is already there and it outlines the critical actions necessary to achieve the policy and so if the system plan is implemented as it is written the idea is that protected areas management in Belize will be comprehensive, will be streamlines and effective and we will end up with a protected areas system that is achieving what it is supposed to that is consolidation and functionality. We get the sense that there are a lot of competing interests and the other part of the launch today is the land use policy and planning framework that ties in nicely with identifying the threats, the challenges and solutions to how we some of these issues.”

A vast percentage of Belize is under Protected Areas status, Young says that the Governments commitment to these areas is there, but the planning policy aims to improve the system.

Dr. Colin Young

“We can see that in a sense we have 36 percent of our national territory under some kind of protected areas designation. Nationally including both land and sea over 26 percent that in itself is a remarkable feet for any country. Now, in terms of what that means in terms of the preservation of biodiversity of course there is stuff that can be done to improve the system and part of that is looking at the national protected areas policy and system plan. So, can government do more? Yes. Can the non-government members do more? Yes. Can communities do more? Yes. So I think what the coordinating responsibility of the secretariat is to pull the energy from all of these different members in one area that now moves us ahead to deal with the challenges that protected areas management brings about because there diverse. We now from the incursion of illegal immigrants into our protected areas to having land use development that is inconsistent in some occasions with protected areas. All of that was happening in an environment that lacked a national plan framework and land use policy.”

The projects are part of a larger initiative under the mainstreaming and Capacity building for sustainable land management for Belize, Judene Tingling is the Forest Officer and the Sustainable Land Management Project Manager at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Judene Tingling; Forest Officer, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment

“This project basically has three main outcomes. The general idea of the project is to do a couple things. First of all mainstream sustainable land management into our policies, into our different ministries and into our different departments. It seems like such an odd topic but many of the things that we are doing right now are already sustainable. This particular project is going to mainstream that and build capacity and it has as the centre piece of this particular project the development of a national land use policy that will take all the initiatives that we have had such as Horizon 2013 and the National Protected Areas  System Policy and Plan and start to put all of those things together and have one development agenda for Belize.”

Many uses of land including agriculture, tourism, housing needs and human components contribute to the challenges the protected areas are facing. Minister of Natural Resources Gaspar Vega says one of the systems key functions is to increase the policing in these areas in the order for sustainable land use management.