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Resentment over Audubon leads to arson in Crooked Tree Print E-mail
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Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 18 May 2017 00:00

Readers who travel often to the village of Crooked Tree are well-acquainted with the Belize Audubon Society’s Visitors’ Center. That building was there up until the weekend of the village’s cashew festival, when it was completely destroyed by fire.

The building went up in flames sometime after 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 13. That’s when the site manager realized that the visitor’s center was on fire. The fire department was called in, but it was already too late to save anything, and when they came, all they could do was put out the small fires that remained. The 40 feet by 40 feet structure was completely destroyed, and at this time, the investigators from the National Fire Service are trying to determine what the cause of the fire was.

In the aftermath, there  was some suspicion circulating that the building was burnt down by disgruntled individuals who were upset with the Audubon Society. There is absolutely no evidence to support that at this time, and villagers have told the press that it is unbelievable that someone from Crooked Tree would intentionally destroy the visitors’ center no matter how upset they are with the conservation organization. The fire investigators have determined that it was an incendiary fire, which means that it was intentionally set by someone.

There are also a number of villagers who are not sorry that the Visitors’ Center is no longer there. That’s because they are upset that there is strict regulation in place which prevents fishing, logging and hunting. The frustration is often aimed at the Belize Audubon Society, which are the co-managers of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary.

The village lands and the lagoon make up the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, which was established in December 1984. It was Belize’s major reserve, and it was designated a waterfowl habitat in August 1988 under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, one of only 2 in Belize.

Under the law, there is no allowance for extraction, and so the authorities from Belize Audubon have had to carry out strict enforcement against persons who have fished, hunted, and cut logwood in the village. So, there are those in the community who hold a grudge against the Belize Audubon Society. In fact there was a small demonstration held at the village where some held up placards expressing sentiments against the conservation organzation.

Speaking with the press earlier this week, Steve Anthony, the former Vice Chairman of the village said, quote, “I would really hope that the people of Crooked Tree really consider if we really want Audubon back. We should put out a petition, I’m pretty sure the chairman and the village council will do something to that effect and find out what the people think. Whatever the people think, that’s where we’re going to go. If they want Audubon back, well welcome back Audubon. If they don’t, then we have the capability to run this better than Audubon did.”

Amanda Burgos-Acosta, the Executive Director of the Belize Audubon Society, told the press that the organization will have to have a serious talk with the villagers as to the way forward. In the short term, a small facility will be placed where the visitor’s center used to be.