by Lydia Waight and Judy Lumb

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[Linked Image]For the past thirty years, the Belize Audubon Society (BAS) has made Belize a model of a developing country with an environmental consciousness. The BAS was Belize’s first non-governmental organization [is this true?] and for the first fifteen years it was the only environmental organization. Through a close working relationship with the Government of Belize the BAS worked to preserve the country’s precious natural resources for the generations to come. They were consulted on all proposed development projects and warned against those that would be damaging to the environment. They facilitated the early passage of legislation for the protection of wildlife and establishment of protected areas. They proposed areas that should be protected and lobbied until wildlife sanctuaries, natural monuments, nature reserves, and national parks were declared. They led the management of these protected areas. Indeed, Belize’s current enviable position as a premier ecotourism destination is largely due to the early work of the BAS.

The BAS was formed by a group of enthusiastic and energetic conservationists on February 6th, 1969. The story of how that came about, and who the founders were, is told in “Formation of the Society” (Chapter 1).

The BAS has developed in three phases. During the first fifteen years the work of the Society was done solely by volunteers using donated materials. By the end of 1984 some funds were obtained to support management of protected areas and establish an office with professional staff. The next five years were a volatile time with inconsistent funding, changes in the Government of Belize and enormous developmental issues for the country. By 1990 the situation had stabilized and the professional phase began in earnest. The BAS staff has continued to increase in number and professional skill ever since. The story of this “Growth of the Society” is told in Chapter 2 of this book.

Since the very beginning the Society has sat upon the same three-legged programmatic stool, the legs of which are:

(1) “Advocacy for Conservation of Belize’s Natural Resources” (Chapter 3)
(2) “Environmental Education,” (Chapter 4), and
(3) “Management of Protected Areas” (Chapter 5).

Each conservation issue, each environmental education project, each protected area is a story in itself. Rather than tell the whole history of the BAS chronologically, each story is told individually in the respective chapters.

Over the past 20 years the BAS has received and given a number of “Awards” (Chapter 6). The James A. Waight Award for Conservation has been given in honour of the Society’s first President since 1987.

BAS has accomplished all this with the help of its partners who have provided financial support and joined with us in the work of preserving Belize for a bright future. Belize’s other environmental organizations, international and local funding agencies, volunteer organizations, and corporate sponsors have all been our “Partners in Conservation” (Chapter 7).

This documentation of BAS’ remarkable history would not have been possible without the untiring work of Lydia Waight. Her meticulous maintenance of records and sharp, insightful memory of the events of these thirty years are the basis for this book. She was the Society’s first Secretary and continued in that position for 27 years when she became Honorary Secretary. She was the one who wrote all those letters for the early lobbying efforts of the BAS, kept the minutes of Board Meetings and insisted upon action as a result of Board decisions. She is in large part responsible for the BAS’ many accomplishments. It has been my great privilege to work with her in the production of this history of the BAS.

Judy Lumb
20 February 1999