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Preserving Wild Side of Belize Involves Educating Christian College Students

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What do scientists in Belize have in common with Christian college students in Appalachia?  They’re all interested in stewardship of the earth’s natural resources.  Recently a classroom of biology majors at Carson-Newman University in East Tennessee welcomed a representative from Belize to their Environmental Assessment class.  They wanted to learn modern scenarios where development and conservation are finding a balance.
Executive Director Rafael Manzanero of FCD Belize
speaks to Carson-Newman University Students in Tennessee
Executive Director Rafael Manzanero presented a program on how Friends for Conservation and Development manages one of the most biologically diverse spots on the planet in his native Belize in Central America.  The wildness of Belize’s Chiquibul Forest includes as many as 17 different ecosystems, including a delicate cloud forest in the highlands.  Educated in the United States, Manzanero serves at his post with a source of pride.  When he described the Chiquibul Forest, he said, “we know it as the jewel of our country!” Chiquibul National Park is part of the largest contiguous tropical forest north of the Amazon, providing precious natural resources for Belize and Guatemala.  Yet it is under increased threat of poaching for native mahogany wood and wildlife as well as pillaging for Mayan artifacts.  Without a strong government conservation program, Belize relies on FCD to protect its public lands.
Executive Director Rafael Manzanero of FCD Belize
speaks to Carson-Newman University Students in Tennessee

To the classroom of science majors, Manzanero talked in detail about the complex nature of the ecosystems, environmental compliance plans, and balancing an impoverished society’s short- and long-term needs.  He stressed that scientific rigor is needed in order to manage his country’s most precious natural resources amid development influences.  

Protecting forests means protecting complex ecosystems including popular Xate palms that are endangered because of overharvesting and habitat loss.  It also means colorful examples like the endangered scarlet macaw, only 100 pairs of which remain in the wild at last count in Belize.
Programs that help FCD protect the rainforest include visiting educational study opportunities for university groups as well as ecotourism.  The protected forest includes one of the world’s largest cavern systems suited for experienced spelunkers.  It is also involved in an eco-palms program that offers churches sustainably harvested versions of the plants commonly used in Palm Sunday celebrations.

Tomorrow on
protecting the wildest remaining places in the Southeast United States!

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