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Members of Belize’s Judiciary visit Chiquibul

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Posted: Monday, August 19, 2019. 3:19 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: On August 16 and 17, 2019, members of the Judiciary visited the Chiquibul Forest.

Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin, and Chief Magistrate Sharon Frazer along with two judges of the Supreme Court and ten magistrates from throughout the country made the extended trip from Belize City to San Ignacio and onward to Las Cuevas Research Station and Caracol.

Over the last 11 years since taking co-management responsibilities of the Chiquibul National Park, Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) has addressed an array of environmental threats and challenges.

In 2007 the key threat was xate extraction.

This evolved into illegal logging, poaching and agricultural farming.

Today the key threats facing the integrity of the Chiquibul Forest are gold panning, cattle ranching and illegal wildlife trafficking.

One of the interventions conducted by FCD along with its partner regulatory agencies to confront the degradation includes environmental law and compliance. Every person detained in the Chiquibul conducting illegal extraction, is presented in court where their cases are attended by a Magistrate.

 The two-day site visit conducted by the Judiciary therefore, was for FCD personnel to present them with the realities of the Chiquibul; the reservoir of richness it has, the challenges it faces and the effort ongoing to maintain the viability of this protected area which represents 7.7% of Belize’s land mass.

The itinerary was comprised of site visits to the Rio Frio Caves, Chiquibul Visitor Center, Caracol temples and trekking to the Tower Lookout, Las Cuevas Maya temples and illegal logging area on the A10 Road as well as a night walk on San Pastor Road.

Presentations were made by FCD’s Executive Director, Rafael Manzanero and Park Manager, Derric Chan.

The session culminated with feedback received from the Judiciary on ways that FCD could improve its effectiveness in presentation of evidence in court; identification of areas for training of FCD personnel and expansion of this effort to include other environmental sectors to include prosecutors and other authorities who participate in law enforcement activities.

This could essentially facilitate a public-private dialogue, exploring collaboration opportunities.

FCD then presented plaques to the Chief Justice and Chief Magistrate as FCD Champions.

FCD is grateful to the Police Department for the security provided, Institute of Archaeology and the US Department of the Interior for assisting in making this endeavor possible.   

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