Deforestation in Belize

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Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a no forest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use. Belize has substantial forest cover (probably around 55 percent), a low population density, and a history of protecting its forests. Up until recently, the greatest threat to its rainforests came from small agricultural plots. Although timber has traditionally been important to the economy of Belize, the method of selective cutting practiced by local firms has had a small impact on the forest. There are numerous reserves which protect almost 30 percent of Belize, but these tend to be understaffed and suffer from illegal cutting activities—sometimes by armed gangs In the 1990s the government granted long term logging concessions totaling 200,000 hectares at unusually low rates. In one case, a logging concession of 64,400 hectares bordering the Columbia River Forest Reserve was granted to a Malaysian-owned logging firm, Atlantic Industries, for less than $1.50 per hectare (60 cents per acre). It is unclear what impact these logging concessions have had on forest cover in Belize because in its most current reports, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) still lists forestry figures from 1990. However, earlier FAO reports suggest that during the 1990s Belize lost an average of 2.3 percent of its forest cover each year, giving it the third highest rate of forest loss in Central America. There are no current estimates as to the amount of forest loss after 2000. Primary forest cover makes up about half the country's total forest. On a more positive note, Belize has an exceptional eco-tourism industry. Each year the country draws tens of thousands of nature-oriented tourists who come to see its extensive barrier reef—the second largest in the world—and
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