Wildfires Cause Economic Strain on Conservation Efforts in Western Belize

Wildfires Cause Economic Strain on Conservation Efforts in Western Belize

Finally, for this segment’s coverage of the fires, as the residents in the west and south grapple with the loss of their homes and farms due to the ongoing fires, the co-managers of protected areas are also being economically affected. Program for Belize, which manages the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, says that the fires are accumulating millions of dollars in losses to manage the fires as well as loss to potential revenue, via the organization’s ability to sell carbon credits. Edilberto Romero, Executive Director Program for Belize explained that carbon credits are a mechanism where organizations can leverage the carbon absorption potential of forest cover for sale. Romero says that since 2011 fires have been harder to manage and this latest fire issue is costing upwards of ten million dollars. 

Edilberto Romero, Executive Director, Program for Belize: “We used to be able to manage fires with $16,000 Belize dollars. Now it’s costing us $70,000- $80,000 Belize dollars to manage fires and this is because you need to have your fire lines, you need to plan before the fire season, you need to do education, you need to meet with the communities, sensitize the communities, sensitize the fires, you need to compartmentalize your area and that’s a lot of heavy equipment work and then when you have to be actively monitoring using different ways of monitoring and when you have the fire then you have to put all your resources, you stop all the other activities put all your personnel, all your equipment into the fire. But if you use an average figure it’s like 150-200 tons of carbon per acre that you may be able to claim from carbon credit. Having one ton of carbon as one credit those credits have different prices depending on the market you sell it. The lowest it has for us it has not been lower than $10 but if you put that lowest figure you’re talking about millions of dollars that’s being lost. In our 2011 fire we were talking about 1.6 million tons of CO2 equivalent and if you put that at $10 you’re talking about $16 million dollars.”

Reporter: That’s $10 Belize or $10 US ?

Edilberto Romero, Executive Director, Program for Belize: “$10 Belize. You’re talking about the minimum. Actually we have not sold at $10 we have sold more than that. You can sell from $10 to $25, five US to twenty five US dollars. So you’re talking about the lowest figure here. For us it’s about in 2011 we lost about $16 million dollars carbon value. If you’re talking about today’s figures if you put ten thousand acres and it’s still burning you can do the math ten times a hundred and fifty so it’s about $15 million Belize dollars.”

Romero recommended that there be a national fire contingency fund, to ensure rapid response in battling forest fires.

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