Posts Tagged campaign

Bladen Nature Reserve Field Trip for Students

BNR Management Zones

The Bladen Nature Reserve is one of the most pristine areas and has the highest level of protection in Belize. Ya’axché organized field trips for primary school students from buffering communities and also for high school students, but it was not a regular field trip, it was to educate young students about the Bladen Nature Reserve.

By law, the Bladen Nature Reserve allows only two things to happen inside its boundaries which are research and education. The reserve is divided into two zones, a natural environment zone and a preservation zone. In the natural environment zone only research and education may occur but in the preservation zone no one is regularly permitted to engage in any activity. The Bladen Nature Reserve is a no take protected area.

The Bladen River is the river that runs north-easterly through the nature reserve with is also classified as the mother of the Monkey River Watershed which feeds into nearby rivers and the Port Honduras Marine Reserve.  

On March 30th 2010 rangers along with teachers from Medina Bank, Indian Creek, and Golden Stream primary schools and Ya’axché volunteers took 49 students and on March 31st 52 students into the nature reserve. Not only were students given the opportunity to explore, but the trip also provided an opportunity for the rangers to practice their strategies of communication, as rangers are look at by Ya’axché as local teachers and ambassadors of Ya’axché who engage in hands-on environmental education. The ranger had open discussions with the children to better understand the roles that rangers play to manage such a huge area with rich biodiversity.

Through this practical adventure, the elementary students were able to observe the pristine and invaluable resources of the nature reserve. This activity directly involved the future decision makers of the three buffer communities, hopefully influencing their relationship with managing the communities natural resources sustainably.

Ya'axche ranger Explaining the importance of pristine rivers

Various situations encountered within the nature reserve were used as “teachable moments” to relate to problems posed to it. The rustic road entrance was used to illustrate the likely hood of impacts and threats posed not only by the surrounding communities but by anyone since it is accessible.  The Pine Savannah and the boundary line was used to discuss prescribed burning to prevent the spread of wild fires from Pine Savannahs. Rangers also talked about nutrient cycles, forest structure, pollution and littering, erosion control, seed dispersion, healthy water systems and the importance of wildlife.

Students were brought to the Blue Pool to show the importance and beauty of pristine waters which affect reefs because of their interconnectivity.

Through these field trips Ya’axché focused on educating the teachers and the future decision makers – students, about the value of effectively managed community natural resources. By spending time within the most pristinely conserved area of the Toledo District, the students and educators were able to observe the interconnectedness between their use of resources outside the nature reserve and what happens within Bladen Nature Reserve.

On April 1st 2010 26 high school students attended the field trip, with a Ya’axché  ranger and Education Outreach Officer. Ya’axché hopes to enable the students to become stewards of conservation in their communities, and give them training and skills they need to continue on in the path of environmental education.

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Fire Training for Ya’axché Rangers and Southern Belize Fire Working Group

Ya'axche Ranger at Fire Training

On February 27th and 28th 2010 Ya’axché rangers and other members of the Southern Belize Fire Working Group benefited from a fire management training held at Golden Stream Field Centre, Bladen Nature Reserve and Payne’s Creek National Park. The training was facilitated by experts with extensive experience in fire management: TIDE’s Mario Muschamp and Mr. Oswaldo Sabido. The training focused on ecological concepts, ecosystems, fire classification, fire hazards and management.

On the first day participants were given theoretical training on the application of fire and fire management. Rangers understood the differences between fire influenced, fire dependent and fire independent ecosystems and which are fire dependent savannah and fire influenced broadleaf forest. They were also introduced to the different components of a fire regime for each of these ecosystems and the roles that humans play in influencing these regimes. The use of prescribed fire in protected natural areas, buffer zones and forest reserves was justified by describing the different types of burns, history of fire use, and the appropriate management response in each case.

Lessons were given to understand the basic concepts to understanding and defining fire, identifying the parts of the fire triangle and its role in combustion, understanding the four heat transfer mechanisms and how they influence fire behaviour and fire effects. Not only were they taught to understand but also to be able to explain the components of a wild-land fire, flame characteristics, and the concepts of rate of speed, intensity and total heat release.

Rangers also learned how principal elements of weather determine fire behaviour. Integral to this was the effect of cold fronts, the importance of atmospheric stability to fire behaviour and smoke dispersal during and after prescribed burns. Fire weather knowledge in planning and implementation of prescribed burns which is highly effective was passed on to the participants.

Not only were participants understanding the concepts and importance of fires but also taught fire breaks and ignition techniques to control fire. Rangers were able to differentiate between “soft” and “hard” lines, understand the principles of control line placement, width and accessibility.

Fire in the Fields

Ignition patterns and when and how they are used to produce desired fire effects before identifying ignition devices which can cause wildfires were discussed. Fuel characteristics and types and help to understand the concept of fuel size and dead fuel moisture time lag, real examples were used.

They were also taught contingencies, safety, suppression tactics and mop-up. They learned defining and identifying contingencies such as natural and man-made barriers to fire spread and also identifying potential hazards and the measures which may be taken to mitigate those hazards and suppression tactics for escaped prescribed burns taking into consideration good safe practice that is required in the mop-up process and above all be sure about the level of mop-up needed after different kinds of burns in different conditions.

On day two, February 28th 2010, theory met reality when the team headed to Bladen Nature Reserve. The rangers were prepared with protective clothing and briefed upon initial activities also giving them a lesson on correct usage and safety issues of all the equipment that would be used for the activity.

The team chopped down highly flammable palmetto using machetes since the relative humidity was too high as a precaution. A blackline was placed between two parcels of savannah land when the time seemed suitable. The rangers applied all their skills learned from the previous day of theory classes, ensuring that the fire never escaped. This was accomplished by wetting the periphery using bladder bags and hoses. The blackline was a success, using a combination of theory with the trail and error of practical fire fighting under constant supervision.

The mop-up which consisted of patrolling the periphery raking and flapping and wetting any still burning material and knocking over standing trees which was classified, not safe was conducted at the last stage of the training.

This experience was very valuable and interesting but also this training helped the rangers better understand the use and management of fire especially in Pine Savannahs.

Ya’axché would like to thank Mario Mushchamp of TIDE and Oswaldo Sabido for generously devoting their time to build capacity for protected area management in Southern Belize, and Wildlife Without Borders (WWB) of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for providing funds in order for this training to be accomplished.

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