Protected Areas Program (PAP)

The Protected Areas Management Program (PAMP) is responsible for the proper management of four categories of protected areas as indicated in the National Parks System Act. The four categories include:

National Park: means any area established as a national park in accordance with the provisions of section 3 of the National Parks System Act for the protection and preservation of natural and scenic values of national significance for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public

Natural Monument: means any area reserved for the protection and preservation of nationally significant natural features of special interest or unique characteristics to provide opportunities for interpretation, education, research and public appreciation

Nature Reserve: means any area reserved as a scientific reserve in accordance with the provisions of section 3 for the protection of nature be it biological communities or species and to maintain natural processes in an undisturbed state in order to have ecologically representative examples of the natural environment available for scientific study, monitoring, education and the maintenance of genetic resources

Wildlife Sanctuary: means any area reserved as a nature conservation reserve in accordance with the provisions of section 3 for the protection of nationally significant species, groups of species, biotic communities or physical features of the environment requiring specific human manipulation for their perpetuation.

The general functions of the Program include:

  • Provide technical assistance in management planning for individual protected areas, conservation strategies for landscapes and other plans (e.g. business plans) that promote the proper development of PA’s.

Protected areas are guided my management plans that outlines how activities and overall development is to be done. The Program is then responsible for providing assistance and guidance in the process of developing management plans for individual protected areas, the landscape management strategies, among other plans relating to its protected areas. Strategic planning ensures that activities aligned to the Department’s vision and also to national and international commitments and agreements.

  • Monitoring and enforcement activities
    • Patrols: the Department partners with the Police Department, Belize Defence Force and co-managers to conduct patrols within protected areas to address illegal activities such as logging and hunting. Intelligence on legal and illegal activities is gathered by regular monitoring; where it is deemed necessary, the law enforcement agencies are included for the control and reduction of illegal activities.
    • Environmental Assessments – Development in or near protected areas, usually require planning to mitigate its potential impacts. The staff of the PAMP participates in inspections and assessments pre and post development.
  • Community outreach and communication

Community outreach and communication is done for the different groups of a community or sectors of society. Schools, women’s or youth groups, hunters and other resource users of the communities are targeted for general education or specific discussions when requested. Particular sectors are targeted in order to ensure that environmental issues and potential impacts be taken into consideration when planning expansion or related developments. In this instance sectors such as livestock ranchers, farmers, developers, and others are included.

  • General coordination on day to day management issues
    • Support proposal development process and endorsement, approve the development and establishment of infrastructure in parks (trails, visitor centres and other amenities, amongst others)
  • Provide technical support to national policies and legislation

National Protected Areas Policy and System Plan
Rationalization Exercise for Belize’s Protected Areas System
Consolidated Fee Structure Policy and Framework

  • Provide technical advice to decision makers

National Protected Areas Policy and System Plan
Rationalization Exercise for Belize’s Protected Areas System
Consolidated Fee Structure Policy and Framework

  • Capacity building

The program receives capacity building training(s) on areas of PA management including ranger training, training of protected areas management, training on developing and evaluating effectiveness of management plans, stakeholder analysis to name a few.

The program’s staff is also able to provide important training to key partners. An important training is the Green Laws Training, which provides an overview for the three main Acts enforced by the Department is provided.

Partnership with communities and NGOs

  • Co-management

Supporting the Forest Department for improved site management of protected areas is a number of recognized non-governmental organizations (NGO) and community based organizations (CBO). The working relationship between these organizations and the Government is formalized through a co-management agreement.

The agreement outlines the responsibilities of both parties and also includes guidance for the management of the park. At the forefront of the responsibilities is the building of an effective mechanism for timely reporting and communication between the co-manager and the Forest Department. Extending outside of the co-manager and the Department, is the responsibility to communities and stakeholders dependent on the resources.  For instance, the agreement ensures that the co-manager includes the buffer communities in its planning and decision making process; this mechanism ensures that communities have a say in the management of the resources they use and depend upon.

  • Coordination with partners and stakeholders for PA management

The benefits and uses of forests extend beyond one specific community and sector of society. Proper management of protected areas and the resources within must then be done through a multi-institutional approach. Effective communication must then be had with partners such as the tourism associations and authorities, donor and funding agencies, ministries and government departments, among other organisations.

Some organisations that engaged on a regular basis are:

Protected Areas Conservation Trust
Police Department
Belize Defence Force
Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
Belize Tourism Board
Tour Guide Association

Activities moderated within PA

  • Camping

Persons (locals and foreigners alike) require permission to enter protected areas for the purposes of camping (i.e. enter and staying in the park for an overnight to a couple days); entering without permission is in contravention to the National Parks System Act. Camping permits are issued for observing flora and fauna and enjoyment of nature. Campers are prohibited to take or remove anything from the area.

The applicable fees for camping permits: $2.50 BZD per person per night for nationals and $5.00 BZD per person per night for non-nationals.

  • Research

Research permits are issued for scientific research within the country. The protected areas management program is responsible for vetting research to be done within protected areas managed by the Forest Department.  Research is encouraged as it provides important information on the resources existing within our protected areas.  Their management can then be improved based on the findings of the research. Camping in relation to an approved research permit requires a camping permit.

  • Camping for Prospecting (minerals, oil, sand, gravel, etc.)

Prospecting for minerals (gold, dolomite, granite, sand and gravel, etc), which involves the removal of natural elements from a specific area has seen an increase in applications in the past. Given that these activities can impact the natural environment, these are moderated and allowed with the input of other departments, where needed. Appropriate permits from other Departments is a must have, before the PAMP can consider approval of camping.

Outreach and Education

Public awareness is an ongoing activity that is utilized to inform the public on the functions of the Forest Department. In many instances the Department receives specific requests from Universities, schools, communities, and others to speak on selected topics. These opportunities are welcomed as it helps to build awareness on forest management efforts in Belize and how these impact the lives of Belizeans.

Encourage school visits

Community Meetings

La Ruta Maya 2015
This event is used as an opportunity to promote the work of the Department. It provides an opportunity to reach to a wide scope of community members and other organisations.

National Agriculture and Trade Show
This annual event is utilized to inform a large number of individuals of the Department. Interactive methods are used in order to have children lean through fun activities.

Forest Department Summer Camp

This year (2015) the Savannah Forest Office organised the first ever Summer Camp. It is intended to be an annual event with the main objective to have children become informed on the various roles, functions and importance of the environment. Focus is given to the functions and uses of trees, wildlife, and protected areas. Direct benefits are highlighted and also how they can be affected if not used and managed properly.