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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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ACCSD disappointed over the management of Bacalar Chico National Park given to a mainland organization

The co-management agreements signed with conservation partners last month (March) for a number of protected areas raised eyebrows in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, when it was revealed that the Bacalar Chico National Park, located north of the island, would be managed by the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD). This led the non-governmental organization (NGO) Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development (ACCSD) to register its disappointment as they stated they had been working on a plan with government authorities to manage the protected area. In an official note released on Monday, April 3rd, they indicated that they were not consulted in such an important matter despite their interest in being part of Bacalar Chico's administration.

The ACCSD strongly noted their dissatisfaction in the note addressed to the Area Representative and Minister of the Blue Economy and Civil Aviation, Honourable Andre Perez, and Minister of Sustainable Development, Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Management, the Honourable Orlando Habet. According to the letter, in 2020, they were approached by the Ministry of the Blue Economy to possibly co-manage the Bacalar Chico protected area. The ACCSD indicated that they started a process to establish a relationship with the government and work on the co-management of the said national park. The letter continues by mentioning that late in 2020, the NGO met with Minister Perez and his Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of the Blue Economy and continued planning on the way forward.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun

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Marty Offline OP
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ACCSD Bex On Bacalar Chico

And over in San Pedro, the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development have concerns of their own. They wrote a letter to Ministers Andre Perez and Orlando Habet saying that in 2020, they'd been approached by the Blue Economy Ministry with the possibility of the organization co-managing the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve. Fast forward to this year, they found out that the job had been given to the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development.

Now, the ACCSD is confused and concerned that they were simply dropped without explanation and consultation even though the marine reserve sits in their backyard. Today, we spoke with the chairman via telephone.

Voice of: Jose "Elito" Arceo, Chairman, ACCSD
"We were approached by the Ministry of the Blue Economy a couple years back about the possibility of co-managing Bacalar Chico National Park and we met several times with them and their technical team and that's how we actually started the process. We were told on their sides that we would actually manage the park being that also we are an NGO, but this island is our home and that process went about and we submit a draft proposal within a certain period of time amongst other stuff with several visits to the site to see how we can improve both the land and the sea part of the marine reserve and that's how it went down. It's been dormant for a while, because after a few meetings, they left us to contact certain persons in various departments and our phone calls and emails were never answered. So we were shock as to why that happened. We only found out through the media of course that the park had been given to another organization which is in Sarteneja. we were in complete shock why did this happened, why there was no consultation with the local stakeholders right here in our home in San Pedro Ambergris Caye."

"Its very important, it sits in our community. This is our backyard for us. We are the largest visitors to that area. Of course, we should have a say in it. For me, I live right around in the area as well and close to the park. How come the community will not get involved? How would you completely disregard the members of the community that are the largest visitors to the park and exclude them completely from what is going on?"

The ACCSD is hoping to get a response soon from the ministry.

Channel 7

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Marty Offline OP
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Changes coming to Bacalar Chico National Park under the SACD Management

Following the co-management agreement signed between the Government of Belize and conservation organizations in March of 2023, the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD) will oversee the management of the terrestrial portion of the Bacalar Chico National Park in northern Ambergris Caye. While some island residents have reported no management activities within the area, the SACD explained they are working on a strategic plan to look after Bacalar Chico with the involvement of island organizations and stakeholders. SACD is a non-governmental organization (NGO) promoting the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources for the benefit of present and future generations. Located in Sarteneja, a traditional fishing village in the northern Corozal District, it also co-manages the Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary alongside the Belize Forestry Department.

The NGO's Executive Director, Joel Verde, explained that islanders could soon expect more presence at Bacalar Chico to monitor and deter illicit activities such as illegal hunting, logging, and unregulated development projects. Having only recently taken the reins of the national park, SACD is currently organizing an initiative to engage stakeholders in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye. "We are only custodians and are allowed to try and improve the management of the protected area by establishing a presence and applying enforcement, research, and monitoring. There is the need to start quantifying the area's biodiversity and documenting it as well," said Verde. He reiterated the need for community involvement, stating that they "cannot manage the national park on their own; thus, they need the island community's support."

SACD is developing the management plan and intends to engage San Pedranos, different business community sectors, local authorities, and other NGOs in consultations before implementing any management strategy. Some islanders asked to participate in these consultations include those who own property within this protected area. SACD is committed to improving the national park and Ambergris Caye in general. In addition, with Bacalar Chico officially under their wings, they can now raise/lobby for funds to invest in addressing its needs. The Sarteneja-based organization also looks forward to partnering with entities like the Belize Coast Guard, Belize Defence Force, the Belize Police Department, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and all other parties that can collaborate in the management of the National Park. The SACD looks forward to a solid partnership with the island community to successfully manage Bacalar Chico. According to Verde, they will seek to develop an advisory committee primarily composed of San Pedro residents interested in the protected area to help shape the management of Bacalar Chico. Following the consultations to obtain the community's input, the next step will possibly be hiring rangers and a site manager.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun

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