Belize’s biggest nature reserve threatened with illegal dam

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) was shocked to learn from our Belizean partner Ya’axché Conservation Trust (Ya’axché) that the security of Bladen Nature Reserve in southwest Belize has recently been jeopardised.

Ya’axché rangers were recently on patrol in the reserve – which is home to iconic species such as jaguar and the great curassow – when they found several acres of forest bulldozed and illegal camps of construction workers. The reserve is part of the core conservation area of Belize and Central America and is considered the “jewel” in the crown of Belize’s protected area.

They discovered that Belize Hydroelectric Company Development and Management Company Limited (BHD), a Belizean hydropower company, had illegally begun the first steps to building a dam. The company had also created a road which subsequently facilitated access for wildlife hunters and xaté palm harvesters – both banned in the reserve.

“Bladen Nature Reserve contains the country’s most pristine rainforest and receives the highest level of protection – yet this new threat is just one of several that reserve faces,” said Ya’axché Executive Director Lisel Alamilla.

“This discovery demonstrates the constant vigilance needed to protect Belize’s precious wildlife and ecosystems. FFI’s support of Ya’axché and all that we do is still as important as ever.”

FFI has been working in Belize for over 10 years and over that time has helped to build Ya’axché’s capacity to run patrols, carry out surveys and engage with local communities around the country’s protected areas.

In recognition of Ya’axché’s unique conservation knowledge and skills, the Government of Belize asked the organisation to take over as Bladen’s management authority.

As of now the Forest Department has instructed the BHD to withdraw completely from the area.  Members of the Forest Department, the Department of the Environment, Ya’axché and security forces will return to the area to conduct a full damage assessment and recovery cost.

A letter to the Prime Minister appealing for his support has also been sent.

Read more about Ya’axché’s reaction on their blog.

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