A Denver-based oil company US Capital Energy (USCE) is illegally exploring for oil in a previously ecologically intact Belize National Park whose rainforests and wetlands are of international significance. Stretching over 42,000 acres, Sarstoon-Temash National Park in Belize is home to the jaguar, manatee, and endangered comfra palms. USCE has broken the terms of its permit by cutting seismic trails to the rivers’ edge, creating new conduits for poachers to enter, penetrating deeper into the jungle, and illegally pillaging the rainforest to extract timber. The Belizean government is allowing USCE to explore for oil in the park, despite a 2010 Belizean Supreme Court judgment and treaty commitments that development on indigenous land be based on consultation and informed consent – there have been none.
The Temash and Sarstoon rivers flow into a shallow, almost tide-less sea sheltered by a vast barrier reef. A leak and oil runoff through folds of limestone would cause immense damage and be very slow to clear, jeopardizing the livelihoods of communities dependent upon fishing and tourism. Extracting oil would require the Sarstoon-Temash National Park to be delisted as a protected area, despite its almost 42,000 acres of rainforest and mangroves being recognized as an internationally significant wetland under the Ramsar Convention. The abandoned seismic lines form straight trails through the jungle to the Guatemalan border, providing excellent entrance and escape routes for the gangs of illegal loggers. Rosewood from the border areas are taken by the gangs to Guatemala, and shipped to China.
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Cleared strips of rainforests for oil production opens protected area to illegal logging
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