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Green groups buy Belize forest to protect it ‘in perpetuity’ #549689
04/22/21 11:22 AM
04/22/21 11:22 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 73,348
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
The Guardian, a news and media UK source, reported on how the locally run Belize Maya Forest Trust plans to ‘save one of the world’s last pristine rainforests from deforestation’. Read more below.


Great article: "Protecting the "Jewel" of Central America"

Belize’s Maya Forest harbors natural treasures key to biodiversity and climate action—a multisector coalition just helped secure its future.


The 'Belize Maya Forest' Preserve was announced on Earth Day yesterday. Around 9% of Belize, 236,000 acres will be included in the wildlife corridor.

"236,000 acres of imperiled tropical rainforest now protected, boosting climate efforts and securing vital habitat for charismatic species including jaguar.

Decades ago, a radical idea was born to protect the Maya Forest in Belize. What if NGOs, the government, community leaders, and businesses could form a coalition to conserve one of the world’s last remaining pristine rainforests?

Today, that dream is a reality with more than a dozen organizations coming together to protect 236,000 acres of land that represents an irreplaceable linchpin in the conservation of the largest remaining tropical forests in the Americas, outside the Amazon. This new protected area is contiguous with and nearly doubles the size of the adjacent Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area previously protected through efforts led by The Nature Conservancy. Combined, it represents 9% of the landmass of Belize and secures a vital wildlife corridor in Central America’s dwindling forests. Together, these new protections will fill a critical gap in a vast forest network called the Selva Maya – 38 million acres of forest that includes 11 million acres of parks and protected areas across Central America. Belize has been at the forefront of land and ocean conservation; combined with previously protected areas, almost 40% of Belize’s land mass now has some level of protection in place. "

Re: Green groups buy Belize forest to protect it ‘in perpetuity’ [Re: Marty] #549800
04/27/21 04:53 AM
04/27/21 04:53 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 73,348
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

TNC Acquires Thousands of Acres to be Managed as the Maya Forest Project

The Nature Conservancy says that with the help of local and international partners it has acquired some two hundred and thirty-six thousand acres of the Belize Maya Forest for conservation work.  According to T.N.C., the idea of acquire the then privately owned property began way back in 2005. Program Director Julie Robinson tells News Five that they have since created a trust to manage and protect the land which protects more than seventy percent of the watershed in northern Belize and is hotspot for biodiversity and forms a bigger piece of Central American forest called the Selva Maya.  According to T.N.C., the protection of this area is fully aligned with the vision for a comprehensive National Protected Areas for Belize first championed in 2005 by then minister of government John Briceño. Robinson tells us more about Belize Maya Forest.

Julie Robinson, Program Director, The Nature Conservancy

“That area was one of the areas that really needed to be protected and included in Belize’s national protected areas system. So, it has been on everybody’s radar, on government, on NGOs radar for well over a decade. More recently, what has been happening is that both local and international organizations have come together and say look this is an area that is at threat of being deforested and clear cut and we need to come together and do something to protect it. So, based on that this coalition got together and were able to raise the funds to purchase the property from a US based private company. The important part of that is that what we are really doing is bringing that back to Belize because for over a decade now that has been owned by Forsland Group and they have been using it for sustainable logging but it has been closed off to any other access so it’s private property. Part of what we want to do is to do stakeholder engagement with buffer communities, or communities within the watershed, so that we can get a better understanding of how we can use this property in a way that aligns completely with the conservation goals that we want to see but also in a way that it will support the local economy, support the economy of Belize and also assist us to incorporate it within our national protected areas system.”

TNC Says Land Tax Waiver is Common-Place for Non-Profits!

This Maya Forest that Robinson speaks of forms part of the parcel of lands that Minister Henry Usher raised concern about at the budget debate on Friday. You’ll recall Usher said that just weeks before the elections, G.O.B. signed an agreement with The Nature Conservancy to waive their land taxes for fifty years on two hundred and sixty thousand acres of land.  Today, when we spoke with Robinson, we asked her clarify that agreement to which she said there was nothing shady – it is a standard tax waiver extended to non-profits like The Nature Conservancy who has been working in Belize for thirty years.

Julie Robinson, Program Director, The Nature Conservancy

“The two hundred and thirty-six thousand is part of that two sixty. The two sixty is that we are expecting another donation of property that would then equal the two sixty thousand acres. So, yes it is the same property.”

Andrea Polanco

“Are you able to share with us, how did that agreement come about with the government?”

Julie Robinson

“Well, I think it is really important for the public to understand that these agreements are commonplace. We are a non-profit which means that what we are doing is not for the gain of the organization. It is really to help protect areas that will benefit people and the government. So, for that reason, non-profits are able to get these waivers because what that means then is that more funds go back into the protection of sites, in creating jobs and being able to protect those ecosystem services. I can tell you that next door, for example, like I mentioned the Rio Bravo conservation management area, this is something that programme for Belize has in place as well. They have had it for over thirty years so this is nothing new; nothing different and it is something that occurs all over the world for non-profits and it happens here in Belize. It is because of the type of organization that we are, that is one of the reasons why we are able to secure those types of waivers. In addition to that, though, what I do want to mention is that while there is that waiver I think we really should take into consider the amount of funds that we will put back into the economy for the protection of this property that goes way beyond any waiver; the creation of jobs , for example, the amount of work that will go into that, as well as just protecting and keeping healthy soils, clean water, fresh air – these are things that have a value to the country and the whole region.”

Channel 5

Re: Green groups buy Belize forest to protect it ‘in perpetuity’ [Re: Marty] #549874
04/30/21 04:42 AM
04/30/21 04:42 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 73,348
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Senator Courtenay Calls Nature Conservancy Transaction a “Nefarious Deal”

Inside the Senate on Wednesday, Senator for Government Business Eamon Courtenay went into details about the land agreement between the Government of Belize and the Nature Conservancy.  In his presentation, Senator Courtenay referred to the transaction as a “scandal” and estimated that inclusive of stamp duty write-offs, land tax write-offs, and speculation tax write offs, the former Minister of Land wrote off some six hundred million dollars in tax revenue payable to the government.  And, according to Senator Courtenay, the former Minster of Lands executed the transaction only weeks before the 2021 general elections.  These reports have of course raised eyebrows, considering the austere times Belizeans are facing. In response, Senator Peyrefitte asked for proof.

Eamon Courtenay, Senator for Government Business

“I need to go into the TNC scandal because the Belizean people must know why we find ourselves in this impossible situation today. Let me give you some details.  On the nineteenth of October 2020, after national assembly was dissolved, Hugo Pott, Corozal North, then Minister of Natural Resources, signed a secret agreement with The Nature Conservancy. I do not know if Senator Peyrefitte knew about it, but he will have an opportunity to tell us.  It could not and was not brought to National Assembly, because it had already dissolved. How was this nefarious deal structured? Big landowners transferred land, supposedly to a trust, controlled by The Nature Conservancy. And that trust is supposed to be for the people and government of Belize. How generous, but at what price? Two hundred and sixty-six thousand acres of land in the Orange Walk District is to into this trust controlled but the nature controversy. Hugo Pott, with the stroke of his pen, waved all the stamp duty payable on that transaction.  What was the value of the transaction, U.S. seventy-two thousand five hundred dollars.  One hundred and forty-five million Belizean dollars is the value of that transaction. And all the stamp duty was waved by Hugo Pott. The stamp duty payable on that was seven million two hundred and fifty thousand Belizean dollars, given away by Hugo Pott, with the stroke of his pen, without any national assembly approval. It is a high crime to wave seventy million eight hundred thousand in land tax, one thousand four hundred and sixteen thousand per year, multiply it by fifty years, waved by you know who. It amounts to seventy million eight hundred thousand dollars waived, when we were suffering a COVID crisis. Speculation tax waved for fifty years. The land tax act says the speculation tax is payable in addition to land tax. The Belizean people must know who gave away three hundred and eighty-five million in speculations tax. The tax payable is seven million seven hundred thousand per year for fifty years, given away in the quiet of night without public disclosure by you know who.”

Michael Peyrefitte, U.D.P. Senator

“When you want to talk about the behavior of another member in the Parliament you need to bring a substantive motion to that effect. What Senator Courtney should have done, and he knows she should have done this, was to present to the Senate in advance notice that he was going to bring this up, and so that we can have a chance to respond and see what he was talking about. I would like for him to give me some contract that was prepared by Barrow and Williams, some signing. We need to see that, we have not seen any contract signed. I mean, so we do not know what that is about, show us so we can debate.”

Paul Lopez

“Is it something that if you see a final document, and in fact there are some questionable actions in those, is that something you would speak against?”

Michael Peyrefitte

“Of course, you ever know me to hold my tongue? I wah seh it. I will say what I need to say. And I will say that if something was wrong, it was wrong.”

Wil Maheia Supports Nature Conservancy Transaction

While the Government and the Opposition clash over the Nature Conservancy transaction, at least one conservationist believes it is a boon for the people of Belize.  He spoke to News Five about how these protected areas are purchased, the tourism revenue they generate, and the management of such areas.

Wil Maheia, Conservationist

“The way I understand, and I have been involved in some of these land transactions before, is that TNC raises the money to buy the land. The land was up for sale. It is private land. TNC buys the land and then donates the land to government and people of Belize. The land is then managed by a trust which is managed by Belizeans. I see it as a win, win situation. First, the land is in Belize. It forms an important part of the Northern Biological Corridor.  The people who will be attracted to this land, who will visit Belize as a result of this land are people who spend nights in hotels. They are not cruise tourism people. They are overnight guests who will come there and walk the trails, who buy at gift shops, eat at the restaurants, who will stay at the hotels, who will fly in and out. So, it is money for the Belizean economy. And I know that there has been an issue about the tax break, but I believe that that tax break will be coming in by millions and millions of dollars by revenue because of the people coming into this area.  Imagine if there were no N.G.O., no conservation N.G.O. in this country, you know what the wage bill for the government will be? It will be a lot higher than it is now. The N.G.O.s fill a gap that should have been filled by the government. But the government do not have to worry about rangers or manager for the Cockscomb Basin which we pride ourselves on when we go to this international convention and we talk about the amount of biodiversity Belize saves. Belize is looked at a leader in the world when it comes to conserving biodiversity.”


Maheia Calls on N.G.O.s to back T.N.C.

Maheia is calling on N.G.O.’s, and former N.G.O. employees who are now government officials, to stand in support of The Nature Conservancy.  Maheia told News Five that while he does not endorse the way the former administration went about the agreement; it is not a bad deal.

Wil Maheia, Conservationist

“N.G.O.’s need to stick their neck out for each other. TNC’s name is being dragged down the drain right now. And I think that N.G.O.s who benefit from TNC and who benefit from other donor organizations who need to stick their neck out. I mean you have people within the government who need to step up right now, who use to work for Nature Conservancy. People who were involved in similar deals when P.U.P. were not in, they were working for N.G.O.s. You could check the record.”

News Five understands that the United Democratic Party will be hosting a press conference at ten a.m. on Friday morning to discuss The Nature Conservancy transaction.

Channel 5

Re: Green groups buy Belize forest to protect it ‘in perpetuity’ [Re: Marty] #549887
04/30/21 10:27 AM
04/30/21 10:27 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 73,348
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Re: Green groups buy Belize forest to protect it ‘in perpetuity’ [Re: Marty] #549900
05/01/21 04:35 AM
05/01/21 04:35 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 73,348
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Conservancy Controversy: UDP Points Finger Right Back At Unions

Since Wednesday's Senate Meeting, the global organization, known as The Nature Conservancy, has been making the local news. That's after Eamon Courtenay, the Leader of Government Business in the Senate, harshly criticized a decision from the former Barrow Government to give them a 50-year tax break.

As we've reported, In October of last year, a few weeks before the General Elections, former Natural Resources Minister Hugo Patt, signed a land agreement with The Nature Conservancy.

This land is supposed to become a protected area for the benefit of the government and the people of Belize, but the PUP's Eamon Courtenay thinks that this deal comes at too high a price to the country.

You'll remember how he described it as "nefarious", and the UDP took a few days to get all the facts together before making a major rebuttal. That came by way of a press conference hosted at the UDP Headquarters, and that's when they disclose the details of the arrangement. Here's what Senator Michael Peyrefitte had to say about the TNC land deal:

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - UDP Senator
"The Nature Conservancy approached the government of Belize, through the Ministry of the Environment, and the Hon. Omar Figueroa."

"And said, we have these individuals in Belize who own large tracts of land. We want to buy that land, for the benefit of the government and people, so that you can protect your flora, your fauna, your rivers, and all that. When we analyze this particular case, we notice that to run that conservation activity for that area would require almost a million US dollars a year, just a natural injection. And that jolt to the economy every year, to provide jobs, to provide activity, to preserve our river, our animals, our trees all of that, it's an excellent, excellent scheme that benefits the country."

"So, in this case, as in all cases, you analyze the cost to benefit. You analyze the stamp duty that is to be foregone by the government. You analyze the property taxes that you won't collect, because the operations on that land, in the future, would be for the benefit of the government and the people of Belize. So, why would you charge yourself property or speculation tax, as Courtenay spoke about in the Senate?"

"So the Nature Conservancy comes to us and says we have these people in the Yalbac area who, together, have 266 thousand acres that they're willing to sell us for 72 million dollars. We will raise that money to buy it from them, and they would form an NGO to run the conservation of it for the benefit of the Government and the People of Belize."

"A Cabinet paper was done, and when that Cabinet paper was done, Cabinet considered it and approved in principle, and indicated to the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Environment, and the Minister of Natural Resources that we should go ahead and procure the execution of this arrangement."

"This is no secret agreement, sir. This was an agreement. The proposal came to Cabinet. Cabinet approved it, and the government at the time was willing to go along with this proposal by the TNC because it benefits the country immensely."

"Senator Courtenay knows that the only time that you bring land matter, or the transfer of land matters to the National Assembly is when you're dealing with Government land. So, if you're transferring or giving to the public 500 acres of Government land, for example, you need National Assembly approval. But no National Assembly approval was needed for this transfer because this is private land."

"So, for him to indicate that somehow that was done in violation of the law by not taking to the National Assembly, that is disingenuous at the least."

"Senator Courtenay made strides to mention that the Nature Conservancy's attorneys were Barrow and Williams at the time. What he failed to mention, and which is true, is that his law firm, Courtney Coye and Company, is the law firm representing the major landowners in the Yalbac area who are selling the land to Nature Conservancy. So, he didn't reveal that, but the public should know that. So, when he calls this a 'nefarious deal', is he saying that he is part of this nefarious activity, supposedly? I mean, he is big in this."

"I think there is a reason, you know, [that] he chose to bring it up in the Senate. Because in the Senate, he's protected by parliamentary privilege, and so, he can't be sued for what he said in there."

You'll remember how Courtenay focused his comments during Wednesday's senate meeting against Hugo Patt, the man who signed the deal on behalf of the former government administration. Today, he stepped forward to explain the environmental reasons for agreeing with his party that it was the right decision. Here's what he had to say:

Hon. Hugo Patt - Former Minister of Natural Resources
"When you look at that particular section of land. It is adjacent to the Rio Bravo Management and conservation area. It's forms part of what we call - and I will get into the more environmental aspects of this - it forms part of the northern biological corridor. It forms an integral part of what we call the Selva Maya Initiative. The Selva Maya Initiative is basically some 38 million acres of land that is put into conservation, some form of conservation within the region of Central America."

"When you put a price for conservation, there, in my opinion, is no price. When you look at what the world is experiencing right now, and probably the greatest challenge in this century is climate change. Whenever you have countries putting aside large tracts of land for conservation, basically as what was mentioned, it is the lungs, that we're protecting our country. When you look at putting large tracts of land into conservation, you're looking at cleaner air. You're looking at having a secure water source."

"When you look at the benefits that 5 or 10 generations will reap as a consequence of the decisions that we take, it is something that we have to consider. Don't think, as we speak, for one's self. Think about our children. What will be the air quality that our children, the children of their children, or their great-grandchildren will have if we don't make the decisions today?"

"I will speak for the north. For the past 3 years, we have been experiencing a severe drought. Part of the problem is deforestation, and when you look at the conservation of large tracts of land, and that area alone, and the adjacent Rio Bravo Conservation and Management area comprises 9% of the landmass that we have in this country. When you put this together, the stability of rainfall in that area is a huge earning particularly for those in the agro productive sector."

"In the past, farmers were able to predict weather patterns. Farmers were able to predict rainfall. They knew when to prepare for planting. They knew when to prepare for all the husbandry practices. You ask farmers - and this is not only in Corozal, but this is also across the country and across the world - how their future looks in terms of them being able to predict rainfall. They're having difficulty. The traditional way of how farmers used to operate has changed. We see weather patterns change so drastically. We very heavy rainfall one day, and the following day, you have one of the hottest days of the year."

In the Senate Meeting, Courtenay said that Patt waived all those 10s of millions of dollars in taxes, which the country now desperately needs to recover from the current financial crisis. Today, his colleague, Michael Peyrefitte, said that he misspoke. Here's how he explained why:

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - UDP Senator
"Senator Courtenay knows that this is foolishness because, under the law, Minister Patt had no authority to wave stamp duty. When you're dealing with the transfer of land, only 1 person can waive stamp duty in the government, and that is the Minister of Finance. So, by saying that the Hon. Hugo Patt at the time waived stamp, is - Courtenay knows that this cannot be the case, but he said it in the parliament because he knows he is covered under parliamentary privilege. Let me tell you what happened. Cabinet approved this matter, the SI - and I'll ready the law for you. Section 76 of the Stamp Duties Act says this, the minister may, by order, published in the Gazette, waive the payment of stamp duties, chargeable under this act in any of the following cases. And then you have a, on a transfer of land to any trust or any organization which holds such land in trust for the people and government of Belize. It's a law, you know. It's not a policy of the UDP. The law allows the minister to waive stamp duties on the transfer of land to a trust, which holds the land in trust for the people and government of Belize."

"For that stamp duty to be waived, it has to be Gazetted, which means an SI has to be created, and then, that SI has to be signed by the Minister of Finance."

"What we are to tell the nation today, as I spoke to the former Minister of Finance and Prime Minister yesterday, by the time this SI was prepared to be signed by the Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, and to be Gazetted, November 11th, had come and gone. So, the Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow never got the chance to sign the SI to waive the stamp duties."

"Do you know where that SI is now to be signed to waive the stamp duty so that the transfer and the deal can happen? It's currently on the desk of the current Minister of Finance, the Honorable John Briceno."

"The question is why hasn't he signed it for such a great project. If he signs it, he will have to eat his vomit. He keeps criticizing the government for not collecting taxes. If he signs the SI, he will be waiving 7 million dollars+ in taxes, and then the unions will have him for lunch."

"If he signs it, then the unions will fry him in hog fat. If he doesn't sign it, he falls out of favor with those landowners who are expecting this sale to go through. He falls out of favor with the TNC, which wants to promote conservation in the country. And then, what Mister Courtenay has done, he has opened a huge can of worms."

This evening, we contacted Senator Eamon Courtenay for comment, and via WhatsApp, he told us, quote, "The decision by the disgraced UDP administration was made in secret. It was made after parliament was dissolved and they remained a caretaker government with no power to bind the country to a deal that results in hundreds of millions of dollars, also, the transfer of our carbon rights. If they believed this was so good for Belize, and if they were transparent, they would have made it public two weeks before the elections. The reason they didn't is obvious. The current government is now forced to deal with this transaction that was hidden from the public by the corrupt UDP administration. As Senator Peyrefitte said, Former Minister Patt had no authority to waive the taxes and duties. Why, then, did he sign the deal? Whilst the conservation aspect is laudable, that does not mean that it should be free of all duties and taxes, especially in the current financial crisis. There must be burden-sharing." End quote.

Courtenay stressed that his biggest complaint against the deal is "the giveaway", which he maintains was done in secret, and in a time when the country cannot afford it.

We asked about the assertion from Peyrefitte that Courtenay's law firm represented the private landowners who want to sell the 260 thousand acres of land to TNC, Courtenay told us that he would have to verify with his office if that was the case. He said that he was unaware if that was a fact. He later confirmed that his law firm was involved, but he says that they acted in a very limited way for this transaction, which he did not know about.

Channel 7

Re: Green groups buy Belize forest to protect it ‘in perpetuity’ [Re: Marty] #549976
05/05/21 04:51 AM
05/05/21 04:51 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 73,348
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
Belize Network of NGO’s Speaks Out Against GOB’s Attack on Belize Maya Forest Project

Last week, the Belize Maya Forest Project got major coverage in the local news. That's after the Leader of Government Business in the Senate Eamon Courtenay blasted the agreement between the Barrow Administration and the Nature Conservancy, signed in October of last year.

Courtenay said the last administration was wrong for agreeing to write off 50 years of taxes, in exchange for turning 260 thousand acres of private land into a protected area. The UDP has since rebutted Courtenay's objections. They insist that the tax break is a small price to pay when compared to the conservation benefits, the eco-tourism possibilities, and the long-term preservation of cleaner air in Belize and the rest of Central America.

It took them a little while, but tonight, the Belize Network of NGOs is stepping forward to say that the TNC deal is a model for conservation, and not "nefarious", as Senator Courtenay described it in the Senate Budget Debate.

In a press release, they say, quote, "The Belize Network of NGOs strongly condemns the attempts of our elected and non-elected Government officials to malign the Belize Maya Forest project. The return of these lands to the Government and people of Belize will help to secure the health of our economy and the well-being of all Belizeans. The conservation of such areas will safeguard our water and food security and make us resilient to the impacts of climate change and even global pandemics. The Belize Maya Forest is yet another excellent example of the opportunities that we can capitalize on while using our natural resources wisely, safeguarding their long-term value to our water and food security. The BNN has and will continue to advocate for the kind of economic development that is well-planned, long-term, and sustainable." End quote.

They say that the 260 thousand acres on which the Belize Maya Forest sits, when added to the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, provides coverage and possible protection of just over 50 percent of the Rio Hondo watershed. These areas also provide 25 percent of the New River watershed, and they serve 26 percent of the country's farmers. The Belize Maya Forest is also recognized as a key part of the tri-national Selva Maya Initiative and the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. We did try reach the Minister of sustainable development for a comment.

Channel 7

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