Investigators are still trying to determined what caused the fire that destroy the Belize Audubon Society Centre Visitor’s Center in Crooked Tree Village over the weekend. While that investigation is ongoing, word around the village is that it was arson stemming from disagreements between the village’s fisherfolk and Audubon. The Belize Audubon Society signed a two year co-management agreement over the crooked tree wildlife sanctuary with the Government of Belize. Two years are left in that contract and some villagers are expressing that they do not want Adubon back in the village. This morning, another environment NGO, The Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations, APAMA sent out a release encourages the villages and Audubon to unite in order to conserve a protected area of national and global value. APAMO is also expressing solidarity with the Belize Audubon Society in its efforts to address the unfortunate event that destroyed the Visitor Centre. APAMO says it is important to note that the facility was instrumental in supporting management activities of this critical RAMSAR site of not only national but global significance. The APAMO is calling on the community to reflect on the importance and value of this protected landscape to their lives overall and to recognize that the Belize Audubon Society’s role has and is simply just assisting them in the management of a protected area. Yesterday we spoke to Audubon’s Executive Director, Amanda Acosta and Village Councillor, Dean Tillett.
“The Belize Audubon like I said does a lot of work in the community; I am not sure everyone realizes what we do in the community so I’ll go through the different versions. Within the school system we have a Junior Naturalist Club of which we work with school aged children from the school. We have helped them set up a community garden which we work with as well. We’ve done teacher trainings, outreach for the children within their community. They’ve actually visited the other RAMSAR site during World Wetlands Day one year, a couple years ago. From the point of the village council, of course mandated by our mission and vision which is working with the communities and environment. Our goal is sustainable usage of the sites. We have worked with them, we are supposed to be doing with them some trails and some signage. We have been working with the tourism element, birding obviously being a huge call. We have supported and helped them in terms of the last two Fish and Bird festivals and there is an agreement in terms of any entrance fees collected that they get a portion but it goes straight to the village council so the village council is accounted to their community for those funds.”
“There are concerns, there are issues but I feel strongly right now. We would like to give hope that this new council has a healthier relationship with Belize Audubon. I think they have been reaching out to us and by extension trying to reach out to our people, engaging them in dialogue and I think their efforts right now is way better than it has ever been in the past and that is why we share the sentiments I guess. As Steve said, it’s unfortunate that something like this happened and I don’t necessarily believe it’s reflecting the issues and concerns that we have because I think that if we give dialogue to this, I believe that these are things that we can work out whether or not Belize Audubon chooses to stay or whether or not as Steve mentioned if we move to a petition if the majority of the people would like them to stay; that is something that we as yet have to look at.”
Some of the fishermen we spoke with yesterday would like to see Audubon leave the village.