With 40% of its lands and waters protected and a growing tourism industry, Belize has adopted an interactive approach to reserve management. Several field schools and research stations in northern Belize cater to an ongoing quest to promote sustainable resource use, controlled eco-tourism, continuous education, and both ecological and anthropological investigations. As resident authorities on regulated land use and eco-tourism, these stations are open to the public and often provide accommodations for inquisitive guests. They provide a unique alternative to the traditional “look but don’t touch” vacation.
Lamanai Field Research Center
Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area
The 250,000 acres of pristine forest has supported the logging business for decades. However, due to intensive logging, precious hardwoods such as mahogany and cedar have dwindled to alarming levels over the past century. Much of Programme for Belize’s impetus for acquiring the land has been to determine the most productive uses for the forest. Since 1992, the Programme has promoted low-impact tourism, regulated timber harvesting, and funded on-going research dissecting the region’s ecology. Agroforestry experiments, forestry management education, and preservation-motivated eco-tourism contribute to the Programme for Belize’s overall management scheme. In addition to tremendous wildlife diversity, the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area includes over sixty Mayan Archaeological sites, many of which are unexcavated.
The Mayan site of La Milpa is the largest and principle ecotourism site in the area. The site offers accommodations, an educational center, and an intricate system of guided trails within the park. The fusion of resort and research creates a unique opportunity for students and tourists alike to interact with researchers actively investigating the cultural roots of the region and/or forestry management initiatives.
Hill Bank Field Station
View from Tower at Hillbank Station
Today, the logging industry has crashed, but the forest lives on under the protection of conservation initiatives and the funding from controlled eco-tourism. The field station at Hill Bank currently investigates management plans for the forest’s resources and invites guests to partake in the field station’s daily routine in a variety of forest exploration activities.
Blue Creek Project
MRP promotes the incorporation of cost-sharing volunteers and field-school students who often have no prior archaeology experience into their projects. Beginning in 2002, MRP began investigating other Mayan sties within northern Belize. MRP provides visitors with the unique opportunity to work with and observe professionals in the field.
Over the past two years, Wildtracks has also worked towards the conservation of the area that falls within the Meso-American Biological Corridors Program. This program links reserves throughout Belize (and, in fact, throughout Central America) in an international effort to ensure the preservation of the area's rich biological diversity. A continuous string of reserves without the obstruction of international borders provide corridors allowing wildlife to move freely from one area to another.
For more information, contact Paul or Zoe Walker at Wildtracks in nearby Sarteneja. They can make arrangements for the lagoon crossing and overnight stay at Fireburn Village.
Paul & Zoe Walker
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