Bladen Nature Reserve and Columbia River Forest Reserve Committee (BNR&CRFR Committee) and Ya'axche along with other conservationists are preparing and counting down to the court date which is on Thursday May 6th 2010. Belize Hydro-electric Development and Management Company Limited (BHD) illegally entered one of the most prestine areas in Belize, Bladen Nature Reserve (BNR) in July of 2009.

In Belize a "nature reserve" has the highest form of protection of all protected areas allowing only research and educational purposes. However, BHD illegally entered into Bladen Nature Reserve and Columbia River Forest Reserve (CRFR) bulldozing their way towards Central River which is an area rich in biodiversity. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forest Department ceased their actions since they had no legitimate documents for their entrance and any other activities in any protected area. They were later granted access to the nature reserve through a research permit given by the Belize Forest Department signed by the Prime Minister himself to do a research of the area. The Bladen Nature Reserve, co-managed by Ya'axche and the Forest Department, is ~100,000 acres, 99,674.2 acres to be exact, has two zones: a natural environment zone - only for research and educational purposes and a preservation zone allows no one is but to only a few scientist and researchers under strict regulations. 

BHD's activities were to be under close supervision by a representative from the Forest Department or government agency but it was not carried out. BHD opened the old logging road, allowing easy access for Guatemalan and Belizean hunters and Xateros and other incursions in both protected areas. Not only were BHD bulldozing roads but also clearing steep slopes, blocking creeks and waterways and landing helicopters which is a "no no" in the National System Parks Act for nature reserves. The BNR & CRFR Committee held community meetings on various occasions to alert the community about the activities and findings that BHD was doing in the area since no one was monitoring the activities. Ya'axche in collaboration with the Forest Department, BNR & CRFR Committee and the Belize Defence Force went on patrols and assessments.

BHD's research permit was to measure the level and current of Central river. We don't think that BHD was doing a research of the area without the intentions of erecting a dam. They were doing a feasibility study! In order to do this, BHD had four separate landing sites (please see picture on Ya'axche Blog). This area is ecologically important to Belize because it is biodiversity rich and may have new species yet to be found. This area is the mother for the watershed that runs though Toledo and drains into the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. 

A team went to the area to do a Rapid Ecological Assessment of Central River and was stunned of their findings. At least seven new species of amphibians and fish were found and may be new to science but we are still awaiting the results. 

The question for Belizeans and conservationist from around the world who see that negative impacts of dam on the environment is: Should we allow a dam to be built in Bladen Nature Reserve and even further tolerate such activities in an pristine area? If a dam was to be build in the area, it would cause serious ecological problems. Dams are very dangerous in these type of area much less is the high cost and the low production of electricity.

Please comment about this disturbing issue facing conservation organization and communities in southern Belize.
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