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Jan 19, 2018

10 Years On, F.C.D. Recounts Shifts in Illegal Activity in Chiquibul

Over the years, we’ve reported on the work of the Friends for Conservation and Development and the illegal activities of Guatemalans inside the Chiquibul. We’ve documented the incursions and the measures implemented to curb those illegal activities. The FCD says that the past ten years of work have resulted in significant achievement for the protection of the forest and its resources. Last year they celebrated a milestone of conservation effort – and today they say illegal logging, which was once a big problem, is now almost nonexistent. But the Chiquibul is still under attack – just in different ways. One of those problems is illegal cattle ranches that are as deep as one point three miles inside Belize. News Five’s Andrea Polanco shares more on the 2017 report in this condensed story.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

2017 marked ten years of ongoing conservation effort by Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) in the Chiquibul Forest. In its 2017 report, the FCD noted that they have made significant strides in the protection of the Chiquibul, but there are still illegal activities happening. Since last year the FCD has been reporting on a shift in the illegal activities in the Chiquibul.  The big threats were once illegal extraction of timber, xate harvesting, and poaching – with illegal farming and gold panning bringing up the back end of threats. The illegal incursions for logwood was at the top of the list of illicit activities by Guatemalan within Belizean territory – with estimated extraction of wood estimated to be in the millions over the past ten years. But that has been changing in recent times – because of the measures such as patrols and construction of outposts, as well as educational programs, there has been a decline in those incursions.

But after that decline in the illegal timber trade inside the forest, the FCD noted an increase in gold-panning in southern Chiquibul – which has been tough to curb because of the remote areas that the Guatemalans are now using.

Another growing illegal activity that the FCD documented last year is slash and burn farming. Poor families would clear out huge chunks of the forest by slash and burn so that they can plant crops. This traditional way of farming is widely used but it has resulted in large-scale deforestation to parts of the Chiquibul.

But, there is another problem along the western border that has the FCD and they say if it is not addressed now, it may be tough to contain in the future. The FCD reports that there is a very organized form of incursion in the form of cattle ranching taking place inside the Chiquibul and in 2017, they discovered that there was a sharp increase in this illegal activity. In a report compiled last year, FCD noted that cattle ranching is more an activity supported by the wealthier Guatemalans – who own herds grazing inside Belize. While cattle ranching was detected some five years ago in different parts of Chiquibul, two years ago, the problem got worse and today it has expanded along the western border of almost eighty-four kilometers. The cattle ranches now run from the Vaca area in the north, all the way down to the Columbia River Reserve in the south. According to the FCD, this illegal cattle ranching is happening inside one kilometer and beyond of the western border – to as many as two kilometers within Belizean territory.

In 2017, FCD documented as many as fourteen pastures, ten fences, nine dwelling, including  some with roofing, and more than ten ponds made by bulldozers in the Chiquibul-Maya Mountains including Vaca, Caracol and Columbia River Forest Reserve – all within Belizean territory.

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