Ya'axché Conservation Trust

Protected Areas Management (PAM)

Protected Areas Management is at the heart of Ya’axché’s work. Ya’axché manages the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve (GSCP) and co-manages Bladen Nature Reserve (BNR) and Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve (MMNFR) with the Belize Forest Department. The Ya’axché ranger team is one of the best trained in Belize. The ten rangers have skills in biodiversity monitoring, environmental law, arrest techniques, navigation, fire management and more. In fact, Ya’axché’s ranger training program has been so successful that the organization was chosen by the University of Belize to design a ranger-training program for the whole of Belize.

The Ya’axché ranger team is one of the best trained in Belize

The rangers patrol the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, Bladen Nature Reserve and other areas along trails and rivers, monitoring biodiversity and water quality and enforcing protected area laws. In recent years Ya'axche's rangers have been developing their skills in field research and providing valuable support to visiting researchers in disciplines ranging from freshwater ecology, herpetology, botany, forestry, malacology and traditional Maya medicine. The team has also become an integral part of the Southern Belize Fire Working Group which conducts prescribed burns of the savannah to prevent wildfire and maintain the ecological balance of this fragile ecosystem.
camera trap deployment

Ya'axché rangers utilize camera traps to see what animals traverse the three protected areas managed by Ya’axché in the Maya Golden Landscape. | Photo: Maximiliano Caal.

Protected areas management also involves working with communities to ensure that people understand the laws and the benefits of protected areas. Ya’axché involves community members in conservation and protected areas management as much as possible, for example by involving farmers and young people in biodiversity monitoring. In fact, six of Ya’axché’s ten rangers are ex-hunters. They know the forest better than anyone and are now working to protect it.

Ya’axché has also established several sustainable extraction zones within the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve. In these zones, sustainable extraction is co-regulated by Ya’axché and community leaders. This is simultaneously serving community needs, fostering environmental stewardship and preserving forest resources that are diminishing elsewhere.
Biodiversity monitoring
Biodiversity monitoring at Ya'axché is guided by the Biodiversity Research, Inventory and Monitoring strategy that was finalised in 2009 and aims to keep track of a number of indicator species that inform Ya'axché about the health of our protected areas.
Tapir track

A freshly made tapir track. Biodiversity monitoring is an important part of the PAM program. Various techniques are used to monitor wildlife, including recording of tracks | Photo: Erik Hammar.

The rangers collect data on the status of large mammal and bird populations through monthly monitoring of 10 transects, each 1000 meters in length, established throughout the Maya Golden Landscape. The team is also trained in the use of acoustic bat detectors and camera traps, as well as collection of rainfall and climatic data at several points in the Maya Golden Landscape.

Two permanent vegetation plots are monitored every 5 years and six permanent snail plots are monitored every 3 years for changes in species composition, succession dynamics and species-specific characteristics. Keeping track of all these indicator species allows Ya'axché to claim the use of a science-based management approach to conservation.