Symposium Celebrates Belize’s Conservation Achievements
A three-day conservation symposium concluded today in Mountain Pine Ridge. It provided a platform for environmental N.G.O.s and public sector entities to update each other on the work that has been ongoing as a conservation community. The effects of the pandemic and climate change were among the issues discussed. There was also an opportunity to hear from international stakeholders on conservation efforts in three other continents, and how those best practices could be adopted in Belize. News Five’s Duane Moody reports from the Blancaneaux Lodge.
Duane Moody, Reporting
Stakeholders in the conservation community in Belize have been engaged in two and a half days of networking and presentations that “celebrate and collaborate” the achievements of Belize in its conservation efforts so far.
Paul Lister, Founder/Trustee, The European Nature Trust
“When people ask me what do I do for a living, I like connecting people to nature – that’s my biggest goal – and I am a bit of a tree hugger so I love forests, I love all that you have here and Belize is really special. Belize has a high percent of its landscape still intact and when you come from Britain, you realise just how much is missing.”
Amanda Burgos, Executive Director, Belize Audubon Society
“One of the things that has come across really strongly is how impressive Belize really is. These people have gotten an opportunity to go out to Turneffe, some of them have gone into Chiquibul, some of them have gone to the new Maya Forest Corridor and it is really to highlight the work of Belize and Belizean N.G.O.s.”
Belize has been exemplary in the region with its conservation efforts. Approximately sixty-four percent of Belize remains under forest cover with one hundred and three maritime and terrestrial protected areas. And the Coppola Family Hideaways’ Blancaneaux Lodge nested in the highly vegetated Mountain Pine Ridge out west was the ideal location chosen for this conservation symposium.
Martin Krediet, General Manager,
Coppola Family Hideaways
“Coppola Resorts and especially Blancaneaux Lodge is off the grid, it runs on its own hydro system, has its own organic garden so it was just a perfect spot to conceptualise this first symposium. It was time for all the N.G.O.s to stick their heads together and sit around the table to compare efforts and see what we can combine. This idea was born about a year ago between T.E.N.T. and myself here, Paul Lister is a very good friend and here we are, it’s happening.”
And so it provided a space for conservation groups in Belize to network and share their experiences with international conservationists, who, like them, have also been battling similar phenomenon, including the challenges brought about by climate change.
Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, Friends for Conservation & Development
“The presentation was outlining how they managed the forest fires which we are standing here in the mountain pine ridge and that is one of the things that the forestry department has been conducting for many years. But there are other areas such as in the Chiquibul where fires did not really use to occur at that intensity, which really marks in terms of the climate change. So we basically have seen now that that is another threat and thus now we have to put interventions to address that. The interventions for us have been like training because we had not have training for fire-fighting and also the acquisition of tools. So we are building on that kind of capability.”
“We’re gonna be talking about stony oral tissue loss disease and the fact that this disease is really affecting our reef and we are trying to be proactive, but it is caused by shipping vessels, ballast water, sediments – stuff that we can’t control. What’s in the ocean is in the ocean, but we are being proactive in Belize and Belizean marine sites take a lot of effort, a lot of money to maintain it. We manage the more iconic Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye, but it is a dive site and snorkelling and those things have to be monitored.”
The Protected Areas Conservation Trust was among the last presentations made today. Accessing finances for conservation projects is among the support that PACT provides.
Nayari Perez, Executive Director, Protected Areas Conservation Trust
“PACT has been instrumental especially over the last two years that we have been battling the pandemic and the effects it has had in the protected areas and the access to financial resources to do the very important work. PACT itself has been over the years identifying those broader strategic opportunities that we have to help mobilize resources for protected areas work in Belize. And that is why we have expanded and evolve from just a trust fund that’s generating its own revenue and investing that back into the protected areas system, but we have created other portfolios of work. For example to access and mobilize climate finance which is a significant source of income right now and climate is intricately linked with natural resource management and protected areas.”
While it was hosted by international partners, the Belizean stakeholders are motivated to make this event an annual national symposium.
“Areas of the world like Belize, which are small nations, low populations, they got something very unique, very special. And what’s really important is how to capitalise on that and that’s the key that everyone is looking to the answer for. How to actually make this sort of blue/green nature tourism the right kind of tourism, bringing in the right kind of dollars and brining in the right interests?”
“I think it has started a very important conversation that we now locally have to continue as a community. The landscape in which we are operating now, in protected areas, the work on the ground, the financing is a completely different landscape now. We are in a different time and a different space and so this forum has kick-started that conversation for us.”