Posts Tagged nature

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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REA of Central River

 

Campbell's Rainforest Frog

In February 2010, an assessment team was sent to Central River to document ecological findings. Ya’axché is very grateful for the participation of Ya’axché volunteers, Forest Department, Columbia River Forest Reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve Committee and Belize Defence Force.

After two field trips to Central River led by Paul Walker and Melissa Medina we have completed a REA of Central River which is avaible on our website.  If you would like to read or download the document please visit www.yct.bz.

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CJ gives Ya’axche green light for judicial review of Toledo hydro permit

The following article is an extract form
Amandala.bz
Author: Adele Ramos
Email: adelescribe@gmail.com
Date: 19/02/2010

On Wednesday afternoon Chief Justice Dr. Abdulai Conteh gave Ya’axche Conservation Trust (YCT), the co-manager of the Bladen Nature Reserve, permission for a judicial review of a decision by the Forest Department to issue a research permit to a hydro-development company to undertake preliminary studies inside the Bladen Nature Reserve and the Colombia River Forest Reserve.

 

YCT’s executive director Lisel Alamilla has contended that the permit is not really a research permit, since it was granted to a company scoping the area with an eye to pursuing further hydro development on the Rio Grande.

 

The company in question, Belize Hydroelectric Development & Management Company Limited (BHD), has an existing dam, the Hydro Maya dam, in the area.

 

Toledo villagers had complained to YCT back in July that workers of the hydro company had cleared portions of both the Colombia Forest Reserve and the Bladen Nature Reserve without having gotten the required approval, respectively from the Forestry Department and the Department of the Environment.

An official assessment by YCT and Government officials confirmed the reports and also led to the discovery of a helicopter landing site. This week YCT reported that there have been a total of four helicopter landing sites in the area.

 

The total damage, as assessed by YCT, is $125,000, which Alamilla informed would include charges for remediation works required to restore the damaged habitats.

Last October the Chief Forest Officer Wilber Sabido informed us that the Department was also fining the company $1,500, in addition to the $32,000 in damages.

 

In response to challenges by YCT, on Thursday, January 7, the Forest Department issued a cease and desist order to BHD.

 

Sabido told us Wednesday, while outside of court, that the order remains in effect. He said that the department had done an assessment over the weekend, and that report will be reviewed with all parties, including officials of his department, BHD and YCT. The cease and desist order remains in effect until then, so there is no need for a court injunction against BHD, Alamilla explained. 

YCT contends that granting the BHD a permit under the concession agreement, signed by Prime Minister Dean Barrow back in December 2008, amounts to a violation of the National Parks Systems Act, and is contrary to the intended purpose of a nature reserve.

 

In the substantive case, set to go before the court on May 6, YCT’s attorney Magali Marin is expected to argue that point, as well as ask for BHD to pay the $125,000 that YCT has assessed for damages within the protected area.

 

Broader issues may also be fleshed out, such as questions over the authority of the Chief Forest Officer to issue the research permit to BHD, the purpose of a nature reserve, and who is really responsible for administrating it.

 

The court case is against the Forest Department and the Attorney General of Belize; however, Dr. Conteh has asked that BHD, being an affected party, be invited to join the suit as an interested party.

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Battle in Bladen Going to Supreme COurt

The following article is an extract from 7newsbelize.com
Date: 27th January 2010

There’s a battle brewing in the Bladen Nature Reserve in the Toledo District where its conservationists versus developers who are investigating the possibility of erecting a dam, reportedly on the Central River – which is a headwater source for many bodies of fresh water in the deep south.

And while the fight so far has been contained to Toledo, it is coming to Belize City – specifically to the Supreme Court. 7News has learned that the Yaxche Conservation Trust which co-manages the Bladen Nature reserve is in the process of filing a request for judicial review of a permit given to Belize Hydroelectric Development & Management Company Limited to conduct research in Bladen. The judicial review filing was finalized this evening and should be lodged by tomorrow. IT argues that the research permit government granted to the Hydroelectric Development & Management Company was in violation of the terms of a nature reserve – which only permits research based on ecology, not for development purposes.

Yaxche says it is only doing this to preserve its legal position – but whatever the case it is a clear shot across the Government’s bow – which issued the permit. But before the permit was issued the hydro company went into this core conservation area with no official permission and started research – which meant clearing areas, m making trials and marking trees and rocks. That’s illegal – and under pressure from Yaxche – the forestry Department fined the company thirty-two thousand dollars. But fine or not – sections of the communities connected to Bladen and the Central River are outraged and concerned.

Those sentiments were captured in a documentary commissioned by Yaxche. It is 30 minutes long and offers a compelling insight into the community based issues – and more than that serves up a classic gotcha moment of Area Rep Juan Coy. Here are those excerpts.

Zenovia Requena, Resident – San Pedro Colombia
“Me I travel night and day in this river and I want no dam in this river because we drink the water, we have nowhere else to drink water. We have nothing more but this river. All the villages them drink water from this river. It is over a thousand people that drink water from this river; Crico Jute, San Jose, Pueblo Viejo, Nah Lun Kan, and this Rio Blanco – all those people back of those villages drink from the river because the river has a lot of branches, a lot of veins which run to meet up with the other rivers and that is why this will mess up whole of the place and with this river they should do nothing, nothing at all because that will affect this river bad.”

Question,
“What will happen if the water level goes down?”

Zenovia Requena,
“It will get dry and where will we go and get water.”

Interviewer,
“We are saying this concession agreement is directly under your jurisdiction, you are the Area Rep. of Toledo West. This concession agreement was signed by the Hon. Dean Barrow on December 5th 2008.”

Hon. Juan Coye, Toledo West Area Rep.
“With regards to the concession agreement, I don’t have any idea about that.”

Interviewer,
“Do you have a copy of the document?”

Hon. Juan Coye,
“Where I saw a copy of the document was when Yaxche was doing a presentation at a public meeting at the school.”

Interviewer,
“And so you are saying that you did not know anything about the concession agreement?”

Hon. Juan Coye,
“No.”

Interviewer,
“Were you consulted about the concession agreement, were you asked for your opinion?”

Hon. Juan Coye,
“Not at all. Let me say that the Prime Minister in his capacity has all authority; likewise the Minister of Natural Resources. It is true to the extent that it is my jurisdiction but these are people who have the final say.”

Narrator,
“A fact finding trip into the reserves was organized by a village committee of San Pedro Colombia in connection with Yaxche, the co-manager of Bladen Forest Reserve and the Belize Defense Force.”

Man,
“Basically it is an educational field trip that the committee has embarked on. Presently we are in the upper Esperanza River, we’ve gone up several kilometers from here heading up into the headwaters and encountered at least seven major waterfalls.

We found out from one of the persons that was actually guarding one of the developers’ camp that there is presently a number of about ten workers that are conducting the research work on the Esperanza River. As Mr. Cruz said we managed to get up to number 52 and obviously at that point we found that there was recent trafficking in terms of human footprints.”

Michael Cus,
“The human trafficking here is very high observed mainly through horsetracks in the area and the presence of human can clearly be seen due to the many trails within the jungle itself caused by xateros hunting for xatero leaves. Hunting I believe is very common in the area by the xateros. It is quite hard to say what type of animals are being hunted but I have seen feathers along the route and also expended cartridges, 20 gauge and what not expended shells along the road. I noticed during the entire route I didn’t see any major game animal such as wild peccary or deer or at least ocelot, I didn’t see anything or a little margot, no sign of wildlife. Last night we found a xateros camp with three xateros. Yesterday when we got to Bladen Nature Reserve we observed seven animals in the area, grazing on the helipad next to the camp where the developers actually are camping.”

A few points. First, you saw Juan Coy flatly deny any knowledge of the concessions agreement – well three weeks ago Housing Minister Michael Finnegan said on his Lik Road talk show that was simply not true – that Coy did know. Second, while the hydroelectric company has been fined $32,000, our information suggests that the fine has not been paid. This evening, the Ministry of Natural Resources said we had called too late and the payment position on the fine could not be verified.

Third, we understand that subsequent to a meeting between conservation and community groups with the Minister of Natural Resources, reports say a stop order has been issued and the “research work has ceased for the time being. That is unconfirmed. Fourth, a commitment has reportedly been made for an investigation will be conducted with conservation and community groups and the Forestry Department.

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December 13th 2009 Hydro Dam Meeting

The following are extracts from the meeting at San Pedro Columbia regarding the Potential Hydro Dam in Bladen Nature Reserve and Columbia River Forest Reserve.

Columbia River Forest Reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve Committee
San Pedro Columbia Village
Toledo District
Belize, C.A
December 14, 2009
San Pedro Columbia Village, Toledo District

Addressed to the Prime Minister of Belize Hon. Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Barrow Is Called To Stand In Solidarity With Belizeans And Ensure That Our Laws Are Respected.

Over 300 Belizeans from several communities in Toledo in attendance of a public meeting held on December 13, 2009 in San Pedro Columbia call upon the Prime Minister to act in the interest of Belizeans and our protected areas. Despite a number of requests to our area representative, Hon. Juan Coy and the Chief Forest Officer, Belize Hydroelectric Development & Management Company Ltd. (BHD) none has dialogued with us.  As a result of the many unanswered questions in regards to unsustainable development specifically the proposed construction of a hydroelectric facility in our most pristine areas we formed the Columbia River Forest Reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve Committee which sent a team to see firsthand what the development company was doing. The concerns, findings and recommendation generated from this Educational Field Visit and from community members were presented at this community meeting which started at 1:30 pm and concluded at 6:15 pm.  We found numerous violations reference BHD’s permit and the National Park System Act, which has resulted in the following resolution:

We hereby call upon the Government of Belize to REVOKE the concession agreement granted to Belize Hydro-electric Development and Management Ltd (BHD) on December 5, 2008 signed by the Prime Minister Hon. Dean O Barrow. This development activity, in one of Belize’s most pristine areas, threatens the ecological integrity of Bladen Nature Reserve and Columbia River Forest Reserve along with the social well being of several communities in the Toledo District.  We will no longer accept the unsustainable use of our natural resources that are the lifeline of our society.

Furthermore, the Toledo Alcaldes Association convened an emergency meeting with all its Alcaldes on December 14th, 2009 and unanimously stood in solidarity with the resolution tabled at the San Pedro Columbia meeting held on December 13, 2009.

We request that the Government of Belize adhere and publicly respond to the December 13th 2009 public resolution. In the event that this is not addressed in its entirety we will have no other option but to engage in a peaceful protest to demand that our rights and the rights of our protected areas be fully respected and ask for the December 5th 2008 Concession Agreement to be REVOKED.

For more information please contact:
Nicanor Requena, Committee Chairman, San Pedro Columbia Village, Toledo District
Belize, C.A, Cell number: 628-4252, email: nicrequena@gmail.com

Central River in Bladen Nature Reserve

 

Good Afternoon Village Committee, Honourable Juan Coy,  Mr. Jeff, Villagers of Columbia and other invited guests.

Season Greetings to All

Ms Ash making her speech

I am a villager of San Pedro Columbia with concern about this hydro dam that they are planning to build between Bladen Nature Reserve and Columbia River Forest Reserves. These two places are reserves and it can be sold however a Nature Reserve  needs to be de-reserved if so be the case more so this is yet another process for BHD to undertake. In such cases the government should ask the people in the south, especially the villages of Columbia but instead taking the authority to do whatever they want is not right. This dam, if built, might not be beneficial to everyone but will affect many adversely, for sure. What are the consequences of this? Honourable Coy do you think you should listen to the people and do what they want? Yes people want jobs like you’ve said in the previous meeting but not in this form of development by the way, I should not say development but rather “destruction” because it will destroy our beautiful rivers and our environment. There are other means that we can help in getting jobs for people; for example getting funding for people to do farming, raising chickens, doing business like how Plenty Belize and SHI are doing.

Also I know this dam will produce electricity but ­let me tell you electricity is not that important like water which is the essential one for living and land which God made for everyone to enjoy. Let’s look at the past, our ancestors didn’t use electricity but they survive; also, an alternative way of getting electricity is through solar power which does not damage anything but it can also create jobs because someone can be trained to install and maintain it.

By the way I did a survey on the views of the people in my village about hydro dam, which they are planning to build. It resulted to 90% against the dam so this show us that the people don’t want it because of its negative impacts and we use the river for washing, drinking, bathing, recreational purposes, travelling also not only the villagers use it but people from PG and other areas within the country or outside come to enjoy the relaxation given by this river and bathe in the nice, cool, crystal water of this Columbia River.

I am asking you, Mr. Jeff, to please leave this village with its beauty, leave the two reserves alone. What else do you want? You have already built a dam in San Miguel, which is enough. This Esperanza river is the Central River so do you see what we don’t want to happen to us and the rest of the villages? Honourable Coy, can you please do what you think the people deserve? Remember when you wanted their support, they were there with you always and now that you are in position you wouldn’t even bother to look at us. Let me tell you something before you make a mistake, listen to your people do what they want and you will see what they will do in return. Think about your governance because I know you want it to last for 5 years perhaps more. So pass on this concern to the rest of the branch of government. I am asking for the people of Columbia to voice up your concerns; don’t be afraid everyone has rights. As for the future generation like myself let us help the villagers to get what we all want because we are the future of our family, village, and country so let us cooperate and stop this destruction from this dam and let us stop the xateros from the  illegal harvesting of xate. Come on we need to achieve our goals by stopping this.

As for the organization and other individuals strongly supporting this concern with the people of Columbia, I encourage you to continue because your assistance is needed and appreciated.

My name is Aliana Ash. I am a high-school student at TCC and I am 16 years old and if I, at the age of 16, can see that it is a mistake then it is should be clear to adults that this dam is a mistake, with this I say, THANK YOU!!!

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