More than 200,000 acres of land in Belize Maya Forest is now protected thanks to an alliance of more than a dozen organisations, including conservation organisations and local leaders.
The protected area of 230,000 acres of land will complete a vast forest network across Mexico, Belize and Guatemala named the Selva Maya, which comprises 38 million acres of forest that includes 11 million acres of parks and protected areas in Central America.
This area of Belize Maya Forest is close to and is twice the size of the Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area that was protected through the efforts of a coalition led by The Nature Conservancy. Both areas comprise nine percent of the entire landmass of Belize and secure an important wildlife corridor in the forests of Central America.
Belize Maya Forest is a tropical biodiversity hotspot, home to 200 species of trees across a patchwork of forest, savanna and wetland, as well as over 400 species of birds, over 100 of them migratory. Fauna that depend on this precious ecosystem include tapir, howler monkeys, and spider monkeys – together with some of Central America’s largest surviving populations of jaguar, puma, margay and other native cats.
The Alliance who have made the Belize Maya Forest conservation project possible through years of effort comprise of more than a dozen organisations including Bobolink Foundation, Programme for Belize, The Nature Conservancy, Rainforest Trust, University of Belize Environmental Research Institute, Wildlife Conservation Society, and World Land Trust.
Securing protection for this climate and nature-critical ecosystem means preserving habitat for some of the world’s most iconic wildlife species like jaguars and ocelots, as well as preserving a significant living carbon reserve that represents a natural solution to climate change.
Hannah St. Luce-Martinez, director of Belize’s National Biodiversity Office, said: “The Belize Maya Forest project allows us to fulfill further our goals of reducing pressures on biodiversity, improving mitigation and adaptation to the impacts of climate change as well as our goals of sustainable management of ecosystem for the goods and services they provide,” says
Since 2011, the Maya Forest Corridor that connects Belize’s Maya Mountain Massif to the Belize Maya Forest has faced deforestation rates almost four times the national average, driven primarily by clearing land for industrial-scale agriculture. Conservation advocates feared this new protected tract of land would have suffered the same fate.
Edilberto Romero, executive director, Programme for Belize, said: “Saving ecosystems like the Belize Maya Forest is critical if we’re to succeed in rebalancing humankind’s relationship with the natural world and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. Not only will this partnership secure the future of a vital missing piece of the protected area puzzle in Central America’s irreplaceable forests – but also secure the livelihoods of those communities who, like the iconic jaguar and other charismatic species, depend on this precious region for their survival.”
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living.