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Aug 7, 2013

SATIIM continues to manage park without co-management agreement

As far as co-management of the Sarstoon-Temash National Park is concerned, there has been no progress to report. The Forest Department’s stance is that SATIIM is persona non grata, and the NGO was informed of that via an official letter disallowing them access to the park. SATIIM’s stance is that the land in question is Mayan customary land, a position upheld by the courts, and they have the right and the obligation to proceed as normal. It’s a thorny issue, and one which Forestry seems disinclined to pursue further than just issuing a nasty letter. That could be because the Forest Department is strapped for resources and realistically cannot manage the park. So if SATIIM is doing it anyway, it might be a matter of Forestry rocking the boat, but not turning it over just yet. Greg Ch’oc told us that for now, they are still operating by the terms of the previous gentleman’s agreement on co-management.

 

Greg Ch’oc, Executive Director, SATIIM

Greg Ch’oc

“We’re carrying out our mandate under the agreement we had with the government which is pretty much to provide on-site management, to provide patrols, to deter illegal activities. And I have said this at the last press conference…that our efforts in that area have limited and deterred illegal activities that you have seen rampant in the Chiquibul. Our efforts I think have kept the Guatemalans from plundering the resources of the park. And because the objective has been achieved we don’t want to withdraw our effort in the park. Withdrawing would be either affirming to the status quo that the land doesn’t belong to the community. We feel that it belongs; the court has affirmed that and it in our interest and the national interest to continue maintaining a presence in that area. The co-management, from our view…we have taken the position that it’s Maya customary land and we are free to take the Alcaldes, the Chairman, as we have done in the past, to ensure that there is no illegal activity…that there is no pillaging of the resources along the Belize/Guatemala border.”

 

The ruling by the Court of Appeal reaffirmed the rights of the Maya to customary lands. According to Choc, that raises the question of whether government had the right to declare the area a national park.

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