Our National Policy Advocacy Work – Amending the National Park Systems Act

Recently our Executive Director, Ms. Lisel Alamilla, spent time in the Belizean capital of Belmopan developing provisions for potentially amending the National Park Systems Act.

The issue is that private protected areas, like our Golden Stream Corridor Preserve (15,000 acres connecting the mountains to the sea along the Golden Stream River) do not have the same legal status as other nationally (governmentally) protected areas.  To date there exists a “gentleman’s agreement” between the government and the owners of these lands to treat them as national parks, but no legal statute to back that up.  In regards to covenant acts (similar to an American conservation easement) this is a huge difference.  Our goal, and the goal of our partners, is to integrate private protected areas into the national park system.  This desire was documented in the jointly-developed Belize National Protected Areas System Plan (PDF Summary).

bz-protected-areas-map

So Ya’axche took the lead by hiring the prominent counsel Ms. Magali Marin-Young to draft the provisions for ammendment.  (Ms. Marin-Young is also advocating against a constitutional amendment giving the government unprecedented autonomy in land rights.  Read the coverage here.)  Having drafted the initial documentation, Ya’axche has submitted it for review and endorsement by the Belize Association of Private Protected Areas (BAPPA).  With their approval the provisions will be presented to the government and lobbied.

undp_logoYa’axche’s involvement couldn’t have happened without the support it received from a United Nations Development Plan project grant.  The three-year project, titled “Integrating Protected Area and Landscape Management in the Golden Stream Watershed,” supports a wide range of activities including:

  1. The development of managment plans for four protected areas in the Golden Stream Watershed
  2. A development strategy for the watershed area that strengthens its social and financial sustainability
  3. Clarification of the legislative environment that affects private protected areas
  4. Providing a blueprint for effective management for authorities and other stakeholders to follow, effectively consolidating the National Park Areas System
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