I would like to thank you for all the good work you do, and alert you to a major threat to one of Belize's national treasures.

Yesterday, I noticed an ad on the Emerald Futures Real Estate web site, offering the entire south side of Sittee Point, at the mouth of the Sittee River, for sale for US$3.5 million. Here is the link:


The ad blithely states that the land will require some filling in order to be useable. No kidding! It's a mangrove swamp! But there are not just any mangroves - they are the tallest mangroves in the entire Western Hemisphere.

As you will recall, the mangroves at Sittee Point have been identified by scientists as being the tallest in the entire Neotropics. To me, that puts them at an interest level rivaling nearby Victoria Peak and the Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve. In Belize, it seems nearly impossible for a tourist to see any primary growth jungle, yet it is still easy to see some magnificent, and globally significant mangroves at Sittee Point.

The entire area is under development pressure. I have been told that Anderson Lagoon, until recently one of the most quiet, peaceful, remote places in Belize, will be the site of a large marina. The boat channel that has been dredged on the north side of Sittee Point is one of the ugliest places this side of Newark, New Jersey. Giant houses continue to go up near Sittee Point, and the mangroves continue to come down. Up the Sittee River, clearing of the riverbanks seems entirely unregulated, and a massive new development is being built along the river a few miles from the coast. All of this in one of Belize's few navigable rivers, so close to the cayes. The jungle alongside the river is, and should remain, an important tourist attraction in its own right.

The south side of Sittee Point is, I have heard (without verification) owned by the wife of a local government official - perhaps a local minister of development. This sounds very much like a conflict of interest. I know Belize needs economic growth, but developing (and thereby destroying) these world-class mangroves would be a classic case of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

Belize is deservedly famous for having better environmental laws and environmental consciousness than its neighbors. Sittee Point, with its world-class mangroves, should not be developed. If there is any area that should be saved by your laws against wholesale destruction of the mangroves, this is it. The area should be kept as a tourist and scientific attraction, and left to provide protection for the shore and the coral reefs. I hope that someone in the Belizean Government will step forward and help protect this treasure.


Steve Gaskin
Sherborn, MA, USA