Friends for Conservation and Development protecting the Chiquibul Print E-mail
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Thursday, 07 December 2017 00:00

The Friends for Conservation and Development held its 18th Annual General Meeting at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel on Sunday. As part of the meeting, a new Board of Directors was elected with prominent citizens such as Ambassador David Gibson and Tony Rath coming into the fold.

In his presentation to the gathering, Rafael Manzanero, the Executive Director of the Friends for Conservation and Development reviewed important events within the organization over the preceding year. According to Manzanero, the Belize Electric Company Limited BECOL has been providing FCD with $25,000.00 yearly to do bio-monitoring; especially the Scarlet Macaws. Also, the Belize Diesel and Equipment Limited donated a new Hilux, which is now stationed at the Las Cuevas Research Station. Manzanero also reported that the co-management agreement with the Belize Government for the management of the Chiquibul had expired.

The Hon. Omar Figueroa, Minister of State in Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development was present for the FCD AGM and assured to those gathered, “ Never under my watch will FCD lose co-management of the Chiquibul.”

In an interview with the Guardian, the Hon. Omar Figueroa said that he was very encouraged “… to see the trajectory that FCD has defined over the past ten years.” He is convinced that FCD has been able to secure the funding to put boots on the ground “…to continue to safeguard what is in my opinion the crown jewel of our network of protected areas.”

According to Dr. Figueroa, over the last 18 months the Government of Belize has invested 2.7 million dollars in the Chiquibul Forest Investment Initiative .

“We brought the Ya’xche´ Conservation Trust, the BDF and Forest Department and we asked them to tell us what their priorities are in protecting the Chiquibul and that’s how we developed the strategy, that’s how we partitioned the resources in the past 12 months up in the Chiquibul ….you see a lot of progress.”

Tangible things are occurring on the Chiquibul landscape added the Minister.

“You see the Caballo Conservation Post just being inaugurated a few months ago, the Cebada will be inaugurated probably in March or April, we see the BDF, the FCD, the FD [Forest Department] have new patrol vehicles, they have new boots on the ground, new rangers so we are doing what we can given the limited resources that we have to actually protect these water shed systems.”

Today’s FCD is a far cry from the Youth Environmental Action Group that a group of youths from San Jose Succotz had helped in forming in 1989. For the 2016 to 2017 period, FCD had a net income of 1.1 million dollars with a majority of that income coming from private grants.

FCD now also assists in the management of the Las Cuevas Research Station, which has also been generating its own income. During the last year, students from the University of Belize, Galen, Sacred Heart Junior College and Muffles Junior College have graced the Las Cuevas Research Station; enjoying starry nights as well as learning much about the area’s unique biodiversity.

As contained in its annual report, FCD pioneers adaptive management of the Chiquibul Forest to improve the ecological and cultural integrity of the western Chiquibul-Maya Mountains. FCD envisions healthy terrestrial ecosystems that are sustainably managed for Belize and the region. But its job would have been impossible without having partnered with more than a hundred other institutions at home and abroad.