Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria confirmed to our newspaper today that the Government is dispatching a multiagency mission of staff from the Department of the Environment, the Forest Department, the Petroleum and Geology Department, and the Lands Department, to look into reports to the media by the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM), that US Capital Energy’s petroleum exploration activities occurring inside the national park have opened new arteries being exploited by illegal loggers, putting the integrity of the national park in serious peril and compromising the nation’s territorial integrity.
SATIIM, in a statement issued late last week, called on Government to require the American oil company, US Capital Energy, to cover the costs of monitoring and patrolling the park, due to what it describes as “unprecedented access” caused by the running of seismic survey lines through the park.
The NGO, which co-manages the national park, complains that, “The seismic lines, which originate from the banks of the Sarstoon River, cut right across the park. One of the first lines cut along the Temash River has been flagged with tapes, and the mangroves have been cut clean an estimated 10 feet from the river’s edge.”
Alegria told our newspaper that the cutting should never go right up to the river’s edge. The law has a 66-foot requirement, and they need to respect that as much as possible, he told us.
The lines of seismic, SATIIM said, “cut across the park all the way to the Guatemalan border, providing a quick getaway for poachers and loggers.”
Whereas some may see this as a merely environmental concern, SATIIM notes that this is also a national security concern: “These illegal activities threaten not only an important preserve of the national park, which is of global importance, but also Belize’s territorial sovereignty.”
They note that, “On November 15, 2011 SATIIM rangers and Belize Defence Force personnel began a four-day monitoring mission of the STNP. Inside the park, they encountered US Capital Energy operations in full rig: seismic lines cut, workers drilling, boats travelling up and down the river transporting workers, etc….
“Since the seismic trails have been opened up, remnants (trunks and pieces of timber) of illegal logging and hunting activities were observed. The poachers have cut smaller trails from the lines to areas deep in the park.”
They also say that illegal loggers alert each other via cellular phones when patrols are in the area.
They are calling on the government to suspend seismic activities until authorities can figure out how to mitigate the negative effects of those activities.
Alegria told us that he would be able to address the specific concerns of SATIIM after the monitoring mission to the area tomorrow, Tuesday.