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May 19, 2004

PACT disburses largest ever grant

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In the media we know PACT–The Protected Areas Conservation Trust–as that organisation that every few months hands out cheques to local NGOs to initiate projects that help the environment. But go abroad in conservation circles and you will find out just how jealous the world’s environmentalists are of PACT and the kind of respect it enjoys internationally. Well today, PACT took a giant leap…at least in the size of the cheque and the organisation it was made out to.

Johnny Briceño, Minister of Natural Resources

“Belize is known because of its natural resources, we are admired because we have forty-two percent of our country under some protected status, but that alone does not cut it. We need to do more.?

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

Minister of Natural Resources Johnny Briceño speaking at the handing over ceremony for the largest grant given by the Protected Areas Conservation Trust since it was established in 1996. The Forest Department received eight hundred sixty-seven thousand, four hundred and thirty-eight dollars that will be used to fund a three-year project to improve the management and development of Belize?s protected areas. With tourism growing by double digits each year and the environment under increasing pressure, the grant is viewed as a wise investment.

Osmany Salas, Policy Advisor, Min. of Nat. Resources & Environment

“To ensure that we can continue to conserve them, protect them, use them to improve the economy of the country, our national economy. And tourism will continue to be an important industry and with a vibrant protected area system, it has ever greater possibilities and potential at all the different levels.”

The Forestry Department manages eighteen forest reserves, thirty national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, nature reserves, and natural monuments that are all designated under the National Parks System Act of 1981. According to the ministry?s policy advisor, Osmany Salas, the main objective of the project is to strengthen and revitalize the bio-diversity management program of the Forest Department.

Briceño says PACT is recognized worldwide as a positive example of how a country can establish a financial resource pool that is reinvested in the sustainable development of the country. Briceño however, did take issue with what he describes as unsustainable logging practices occurring especially in the Northern and Belize Districts.

Johnny Briceño

?How about continued logging activities in the Corozal, Orange Walk, and Belize Districts. I mean really, when you see some of the trees that these people are taking out, they are some very small trees, it?s a crime. Can we continue to do that? Yes, there are some political fallbacks on that, or some political pressures that we can have, or probably it is really high time that we decide that we can no longer continue to have anymore of these logging activities in these districts. Don?t you think that it is also time that all of these people that are doing logging in our country, and even farmers, that whenever they cut a tree that they also need to plant it back one way or the other? These are some of the questions that we have to be answering.?

PACT’s revenues are derived from a seven dollar and fifty cent charge on departing foreign travellers at the airport, a two dollar levy from arriving cruise passengers, and a portion of entry fees at various parks and archaeological sites. With unprecedented increases in all facets of tourism, PACT’s financial position is obviously healthy.


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