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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Steadfast Tourism and Conservation Association (STACA) and the villagers of Steadfast Village in the Stann Creek District have expressed concerns about two impending projects that they say will adversely affect their way of life. The projects to be carried out by New River Enterprise of Orange Walk include logging of the Upper Mountain Area and the building of a road through Billy Barquedier National Park. Love News spoke with STACA's Executive Director Hyacinth Ysaguirre.

Hyacinth Ysaguirre; Executive Director, STACA 

"The issue here that has been affecting our village and that we called an emergency meeting for last night is a proposed logging in the reserve and a road that is being proposed through a national park to facilitate the logging. The fact that the Department of the Environment is advocating that the two be handled as separate issues when in fact one is being used to facilitate the other, the fact that we have not been consulted as a village. We don't want the logging, we don't want the road. We have a potable water system on this road. We just invested $40 thousand on a sedimentation filtration system that will be impacted."

Ysaguirre says the proposed project will affect the entire North Stann Creek Water shed and the Mullins River Water shed.

Hyacinth Ysaguirre

"The people of Mullins River don't event know what's coming their way. A year ago we asked to be the ones to identify and invited the stakeholder and they told us yes, now it's a different story. They don't want to show us the documents pertaining to it. We filed under the freedom of information act hoping to get the documents within the next two weeks. Last night we agreed to come out here today. The committee was coming out for a site visit and the village decided we were not going to let them do that until they consult with us. Basically we set up barricade, we came, it was civil disobedience and everybody behaved themselves well. We stood together and they agreed that they would take our concerns back to GOE and FDE. We don't want to feel like we are being railroaded. They promised us the process would be followed; they don't want to follow it."

The next community meeting will be held in Alta Vista Village on Saturday at five pm.


Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Standing Strong In Steadfast

You might not know about Steadfast Village - it's in the Stann Creek District at mile 17 on the Hummingbird Highway, home to about 500 people not known for civil disobedience.

But today, they showed signs of change. Last night a meeting was held in Steadfast where 100 villagers turned out to decide what they were going to do when the National Environmental Appraisal Committee(NEAC) arrive today in the village for a site inspection of the Billy Barquedier National Park. That park is the community's pride and joy and The villagers were on high alert because prior to this an Environmental Impact Assessment was done for New River Enterprise for a "proposed road and restoration upgrade project" for the park to facilitate the extraction of logs from a logging concession held by the business. It is a project that the Steadfast Tourism and Conservation Association is strongly against. We visited the village today and Director of STACA Hyacinth Ysaguirre told us more:

Andrea Polanco Reporting
Steadfast is a small community in the Stann Creek District and its home to the Billy Barquedier National Park, which boasts 1,500 acres of watershed terrain. This National Park like many others is a home-grown Organization.

Hyacinth Ysaguirre, Executive Director-STACA
"Steadfast Tourism and Conservation Association is a home grown organization, we started in 1994. The same core of the group of the group is still running the group; the board. And basically what it is, we identify an area that we thought was important to protect because it provided thepotable water. At the time is was Valley Community, Steadfast and Alta Vista getting water from the Billy Barquedier area and we lobbied the conservation department to have it declared protected so after like 7 years it was declared a national park in 2001."

The journey to develop and preserve this park has been the product of the sweat and hard work of the villagers:

Hyacinth Ysaguirre, Executive Director-STACA
"We still get our potable water from there. We have implemented over the past few years a sedimentation filtration system for our village, we have clean pure water, but at times of rainfall we do have sediments that go into it and we have a nice sand and gravel system that our partners University of Arkansas and PACT help us to put in. "

Well today the Villagers say that very same water system which pumps water to some 500 villagers will be threatened by New River Enterprise, as Ysaguirre tells us it has the potential to damage their national park and also endanger the lives of many people:

Hyacinth Ysaguirre, Executive Director-STACA
"They want to cut down the hills from 90 degrees of slope to 8 degrees and move material that they know and that they state in their own EIA, its friable and prone to gully formation and they are going to use that to fill up big 30 inch ravines and gullies that are already there. This is like recipe for disaster and then when that all washes out its right into our water system then what are we going to drink. It's not just us, the management unit 8 they want to start with. It extends right behind all the potable water supplies of the upper valley. This project is going to impact the entire valley and the town of Dangriga. The people of Mullings River don't even know what's coming their way."

The community said that The New River Enterprise was supposed to consult with STACA but they never really engaged in proper dialogue:

Hyacinth Ysaguirre, Executive Director-STACA
"We have a lot of issues, a lot on concerns because we have studies that were done back in upper Mullings River basin, which the area in between Billy Barquedier national park and the manatee forest reserve. Studies were done that say if you remove the forest cover from up here you are going to cause flooding in the coast and this is exactly where they want to begin. We showed them, we sent it to them, they don't care, this is where they want to begin and then they come to us and they tell us; they totally disregard us as the co-management entity for this park and they just want to come, they did their EIA for the road only and we have inside information that NEAC committee was told 'you are to consider a road totally separate from the logging issue, do not consider it as one issue' they know why they are trying to do that. How can you consider it when the road is being put in to facilitate the access to the logs? They are anticipating 150 logs, trucks load of logs in a 3 month period. What is that going to do to our water system?"

It all came to a head today when about 15 NEAC Members arrived to and inspect the National Park, but the villagers weren't going to be stopped because they put on a protest and blocked the road leading to the park:

"We are against all logging; we don't want any logging in our village because this is where everybody live. This is the village of Steadfast and we benefit from the water shed and we don't want any logging because if they log in our water shed then that will affect our water and then all of us will get sick and we will can't use the water."

"New River Enterprise stay in Orange Walk. We live here, we born here, we will die here but not by Joe Loscot and New River Enterprise, we doing it for our children and everybody, we are together."

"We don't want any road, no logging, it will cause erosion of the hill, landslide, I live at the foot of the hill, everything could just wash down and cover all of us. So we against all logging, roads, we don't want anybody at the back there. It is a protected area."

Villager "The beginning and ending of this is that this community we have shown our presence that we know what is right or our people and we are willing to stand up and come together in the right way to do what is necessary to ensure the future of our community, the future of our environment and the future of our natural resources because no matter what the government propose; right is right and wrong is wrong and the government must also take into mind that not only the people of Steadfast but the people of Belize on a whole are tired of this and are ready to do what is necessary."

The villagers say this National Park is more than just a waterfall; it is the lifeline of this community:

"This is where we get our water from, we have our water fall and this is where we make most of our revenue. For the longest we never had funds and grants so we rely on the revenue from the tourists so they we can pay our people to keep this area clean and keep it for our recreation. We use it for washing, cooking and to drink. Water is life; I love this area and would hate to see Mr. Loscot come and destroy this area. Just imagine this with all red mud, red water, and dirty water. We can't have that."

Sandy Moriera, Village Council
"I am here to show you the main spot of the waterfall where the villagers get our water from; the two villages Steadfast and Alta Vista and more down. This is the main spot right here, we don't want Mr. Loscot to come here or send his equipments and mess up our nice waterfall because this is for the kids and this is for the people of Steadfast."

David Cruz, Vice Chairman-Water Board
"It's a dam that feeds water to both Alta Vista and Steadfast Villages on the Stann Creek Valley road and its 100% natural. We are trying to protect it because its where we get our water from, we need to protect it because we don't have any source or other means to get our water from."

STACA says that approximately thirty thousand dollars has been invested in their water system and their next step will be to hold a community consultation on the 24th of this month. The New River Enterprise is an Orange Walk based company that specializes in logging, sawmilling, and woodcarving. We were unable to get a comment from Joseph Loskot, owner of New River Enterprise.

Channel 7

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