Is The Forestry Department Turning a Blind eye?
Please give me space in your newspaper to bring to the attention of your readers a matter which is important to all Belizeans. In last weekend’s edition of your newspaper, some brave and proud UB students ’spilled the beans’ on the destruction occurring in the Mountain Pine Ridge caused by unsustainable logging practices. By exposing the raping of our natural resources, the letter also brings into question the level of corruption occurring in the Forestry Department.
If your readers will recall, over the past years there have been a sustained assault on the Forestry Department in both the printed and televised media. The question is how is it possible that a government agency can be dragged through the media so often in a bad light? The answer that I have found is that the rank of the Forestry Department is riddled with corruption from top to bottom.
Recently, residents of the San Jose village have been complaining of xateros stealing xate leaves from their land and calling upon the Forestry Department to do something. How can a misguided and ineffective organization do anything to help? A credible source has mentioned that there are no officers within the Forestry Department willing to go on patrols in the jungle to protect our natural heritage. However, officers of that department are more than willing to issue logging licenses which destroy our environment. Is the Forestry Department turning a blind eye to the destruction it is causing and yet unwilling to remedy it? Why is the Chief Forestry Officer not able to do anything about the mess his department is creating?
Going back to the logging in the Mountain Pine Ridge, I have been following the situation closely and so far there have been no attempts by the Forestry Department to visit the area and stop the destruction. Perhaps by providing lunch for the officer who signed the license, the logger has guaranteed himself immunity? Why is the Forestry Office taking away thatch leaves from poor Mayas and letting them rot in the sun, and yet they turn a blind eye to the destruction in the Mountain Pine Ridge? I am sure that people in the conservation field know the answer to these questions.
I call upon your readers to continue to apply pressure on the Forestry Department so that changes may occur in the ranks and finally the corruption which is destroying our natural resources may go away or at least decrease. Something has to be done about this situation as we Belizeans cannot continue to give away our resources to Guatemalans. We cannot sit by while the Forestry Department continues to de-reserve our Protected Areas as is occurring this moment. We the poor people need a change and it may start with a new organization like a statutory board which can manage our trees, wildlife and xate responsibly. I call upon the Minister and the authorities to do something to fix the Forestry Department.