History

Looking back at the settlement and growth of Belize as a nation, takes us back to the exploitation of Belize’s forest resources. History shows that some of the first settlers were logwood cutters.  Logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum) became a targeted species due to its bright red dye that was utilized in the textile industry. The exports to England date back to about 1655. With the fall in demand for the logwood, and the increase in demand for timber, the mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla King) trade began; dating back to about a century later. Mahogany became a targeted timber specie as it was easy to work with; this made it popular for furniture, doors, windows and other furniture items. In 1774 the largest mahogany harvested in Belize was recorded as measuring 3.65 meters (11.96 feet) in diameter.

In 1886, a visit was carried out to inspect the forests and timber trade and resulted in a report, Hooper Report that recommended the forming of a Forest Department. A second visit with the same objectives was conducted in 1921 when the mahogany was approaching exhaustion. This report, Hummell Report 1922, again reiterated the formation of a Forest Department. A Forest Trust was initiated in 1923, and later replaced by a Forest Department in 1935.

The 1922 Hummell Report found few regeneration of Mahogany; stand improvement operations began treating mahogany seedlings by cutting away vines and girdling undesirable trees. By 1929, operations had treated 100,000 seedlings; by 1942 a million seedlings had been treated.

Present day, the scope of management has changed forest exploitation and administration to biodiversity management and social and community forestry. Forest management now promotes participatory forest governance, value added products, and diversification of forest use. This tries to capture stakeholder participation and inclusion in management, promotes income generation from forest products, and diversified use of multiple timber species.