Conservation Action Planning for the Central Belize Corridor
The Central Belize Corridor (CBC) is an area comprised of mostly private lands, connecting the two main protected forest blocks of Belize: the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area (RBCMA) in northern Belize with the Maya Mountain Massif (MMM) forest block in southern Belize. Corridors such as the CBC are essential to safeguarding small, isolated wildlife populations because they provide a route through the landscape that allows the movement of animals between populations ensuring their long term survival.
The ERI through work with Panthera and the UK’s Darwin Initiative have documented that communities consistently agree that as the landscape changes from a forested to an increasingly agricultural landscape along with an increase in population, game animal populations are becoming scarce and communities are being negatively affected by environmental degradation. Therefore, certain activities in the CBC, such as extensive forest clearance, may eventually prevent the movement of animals through the corridor, isolating the south from the north and causing a loss in connectivity. There are many benefits to be gained by looking after the forest and wildlife, for example, game meat for future generations of Belizeans; clean water in the rivers for drinking, crops and fishing and recreation to attract the tourist dollar.
In order to identify ways in which current and future socio-economic development in the CBC can be compatible with the function of the corridor, the ERI in conjunction with the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development (MFFSD) with support from Panthera and the GIZ Selva Maya Program has initiated conservation action planning for the corridor. Developing a Conservation Action Plan (CAP) is a process that has been used globally to formulate, through consensus, a single vision for the management of an area. The CAP process will bring all stakeholders including land owners, community residents and developers in a series of consultations in which they define and prioritize the targets for management/conservation, the threats to these targets and the strategies that they agree to be a part of implementing in order to meet the targets set.
On May 9, 2013, the Belize Zoo hosted a CBC CAP launch event. In attendance was Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, Hon. Lisel Alamilla who along with ERI’s Administrative Director & Science Director (Marine), Dr. Leandra Cho-Ricketts gave opening remarks. Dr. Elma Kay, ERI’s Science Director (Terrestrial) presented on the CBC and the importance of developing a CAP for the area. Chief Executive Officer of the MFFSD, Dr. Wendel Parham, introduced the task force that will be leading the development of the CAP for the corridor. The task force will be responsible for facilitating a series of 5-8 stakeholder consultations and compiling the plan. Members represent 12 organizations and government departments including the ERI, departments of the MFFSD, departments of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture, Rancho Dolores environmental groups, Community Baboon Sanctuary, Belize Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy and the Belize Zoo. The event closed with a special recognition of Mrs. Carolyn Carr and Mrs. Carol Foster who contributed a painting and photographs, respectively. These were used to produce the large CBC billboards that can be seen on the Western Highway. Mrs. Rasheda Garcia of the Forest Department gave the vote of thanks.
Scheduled for the remainder of the year are the stakeholder consultations the will culminate in the CAP. Review and launch of the CAP will be completed early next year and will be followed by implementation of the plan.