Cattle ranching by Guatemalans inside the protected areas including Vaca, Caracol, Columbia River and Chiquibul is an increasing threat. This is what Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) is reporting. FCD says that this has been evolving for some years now to a point where more adaptive strategies need to be employed. Recently officials from the BDF and FCD met to discuss a more effective strategy to address this concern in the short and medium term. Acting Chief of Staff at the BDF Lieutenant Colonel Jermaine Burns told us more.
Lt. Col. Jermaine Burns, Acting Chief of Staff, BDF: “Over the past three years or so we’ve seen a shaft where we have a significant among of ranchers clearing land for cows to gaze over on our side of the border and what we did, initially, was, of course, to go along with the diplomatic approach and speak to our Guatemalan counterparts and we did a couple meetings through our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and their Foreign Affairs at that diplomatic level and on the ground we had our soldiers attempt to push back these ranching, illegal ranching and so you would see where, in the BDF, we would be cutting down fence lines that would be apparent on our side of the border. We’d be cutting down their poles as soon as they are putting them up to try and make these fences and it’s elaborate sizes of fences. You’d imagine because it’s a lot of cows that are grazing on that end and the strategies that we were using over the past few years just doesn’t seem to be pushing them back. While it reduces the threat for a while you see where other areas are being cleared for these ranches to come about and so we found it very important because we work in the Chiquibul hands in hands with the FCD and their park rangers are actually posted at conservation posts at strategic areas along the Western Border with us and these are permanent posts and our soldiers, on a weekly basis, would report cows grazing and to every time you approach a cow, if you know anything about ranching, these cows would just run, scatter. And it’s very hard to say you’re going to catch a cow and detain the cow and bring them in because you have all kinds of health risks that you can bring into the country and so the approach had to be looked at again to see where we can put a dent in this type of operation by the Guatemalans.”
The cattle ranching fields are well documented and decisive actions are now required. Cattle ranching in the tropics is the main anthropogenic activity destroying the wide expanse of broadleaf forests. Burns shared what the plan is to deal with the problem.
Lt. Col. Jermaine Burns, Acting Chief of Staff, BDF: “We have attempted numerous special operations and these operations have seen where the numbers die down and then they go right up back and so the sit down with FCD last week Wednesday was actually to discuss: How do we move forward? How do we better put logistics to purpose in the area of the Chiquibul? How do we stop the deforestation for these ranching purposes by our neighbours and how do we do it the right way? Normally, the process would mean that if a patrol report an illegal ranch, it would be written up by our ministry to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who writes to the OAS and then the OAS goes in, provides some sort of clarification that it is in fact within Belize and then we would be prompted that we can get the permission to go and destroy with their supervision and of course after having told our Guatemalan counterparts that we’re doing it just out of respect and we would go in and destroy the posts and so on but that process takes about two months, sometimes a little bit longer and so the effect is almost, um, not as good as we want it to be. And so the meeting discussed all the things we’ve been doing, what we think we can do to enhance the efforts and to try and have more of a permanent presence in the areas that are affected and this is the Savannah area, the Valentin area, and to some extent the Caballo area as well and so we spoke about how we can go and target these particular areas though special operations and duplicating or in some case triplicating the number of soldiers we put on the ground for a period of time so that we can then dent the efforts of the illegal ranching.”