Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, the Economic & Ecological Benefits

September 19, 2023

Duane Moody, Reporting via

Thousands of persons are currently dependent on the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve – for their livelihood, for water, for natural resources. But its value transcends just those who live in neighbouring communities. Thousands more visit the area for recreational purposes, as well as for spiritual and cultural reasons. News Five’s Duane Moody takes a deeper look into the various ecological and economic benefits of the reserve. Here’s that report.

It’s the protagonist that sustains our lives and culture and carries huge economic and ecological benefits, but nature – especially how we value it – is something often times taken for granted.


Shanelly Carillo-Balan, Officer in Charge, Douglas D’Silva Forest Station

“We have fresh air, we receive clean water in our homes but we sometimes don’t understand about why we’re receiving these services, where they are coming from, how does it all work. So today, it is to highlight these benefits, to understand how these processes work a little bit and why we need to make sure that we play our part to ensure that we have them in the long run.”

Over sixty-two percent of the country is under some level of environmental protection – be that marine or terrestrial. These areas are nationally protected for the survival of the ecosystem which critically provides goods and services to buffer communities.

The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is in Cayo District. Four hundred and thirty square kilometres in size, this nature reserve was designated back in 1944 to protect and manage the native Belizean pine forests. The road to the reserve has been paved recently and there has been a boom in economic activities in the area.  Visitation is up and logging is actively happening so the Forest Department is sharing its importance.

Shanelly Carillo-Balan

“Did you know that the San Antonio community receives its water supply from the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve? So these are the very important benefits that we are receiving from this area and we want the stakeholders, the buffer communities to start appreciating them a little bit more.”

Indigenous people have long been referred to as stewards of natural spaces, forests and worlds. They believe in communing with the earth. The entrance to the Rio Frio Cave, located near the Douglas D’ Silva camp in the reserve, has a spiritual connection which is celebrated in the Maya culture.


Ernesto Saqui, Spiritual Leader

“In the beliefs and tradition and culture of Maya people, it is always important to acknowledge such sacred space. It’s very important. It is important because there is a sacred use. For example, I want to give a little offering to nature or to the cave or to the waterways. I must come and humble myself and say that I am a gift to you and you are a gift to me. We should be able to understand that relationship and so, I share by burning my incense for you to acknowledge how much this means to me and in return you will be able to look at this gesture as a form of exchange in a very spiritual way.”

The symbiotic relationship between nature and people is a key factor in sustainability; making sure that the carbon footprint, as a result of increased tourism activity, is at its minimum. There are a number of resorts located within the reserve, which provides a unique experience for tourists – specifically campers, nature buffs and birders.


Geronimo Tzib, Employee, Blancaneaux Lodge

“It’s such a beautiful country with green, fresh air, nice ecosystems like where we are at the moment; it’s pine forest. And also we have the rainforest not too far away like where we were, Rio Frio. It is limestone, good habitat for birds. And like you saw this morning, we did a little bit of birding with the school children and that’s good for the younger generation as well to learn and protect what we have for the future.”


Philip Bedran, Manager, San Miguel Campgrounds

“San Miguel Campgrounds, I opened about three years ago, but this used to be the main logging camp for Bulridge. We still use it as a logging camp; the old sawmills used to be here back in the day, but now I’ve turned this place into a place where Belizeans and tourists come here to recreate and enjoy the forest. Along with that, Bulridge, they do a lot of management practices such as civil cultural practices such as civil cultural packages like prescribed burns. They do thinnings and we also have the new restoration project as well.”

The experience includes educating visitors about the proper disposal of garbage and the impact of climate change to the area. That’s where Bulridge Limited comes in. This logging company promotes trees as the most useful renewable natural resources and manages the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, as well as the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve – two of the largest forest reserves in the country. The area, however, was damaged by wildfires due to the rising temperatures. In its mission to maintain sustainable, economic and environmental standards, Bulridge Limited has embarked on a reforestation project.


Nidia Valdez, Forest Manager, Bulridge Ltd.

“We decided in 2021 to help the forest regenerate because if you don’t have any trees and other trees are destroyed by a big wildfire, then there is no seeds. And we decided to put together a nursery to basically restore that area. We are doing one species of pine because as you know the mountain pine ridge is basically composed of only pine. We have two different pine species which are pinos caribaea and pinos spatula. So when you aer trying to restore a forest ecosystem, you will want to restore it with the same kind of species that are already existing in that ecosystem. When you are doing sustainable logging, you are basically meeting the needs of the people while you are still conserving and protecting the natural ecosystem.”


And in the spirit of giving back to the environment, the Forest Department has partnered with Bulridge Limited for replanting of five hectares in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.

Shanelly Carillo-Balan

“Specifically in areas where the watershed runs into that area of water that the San Antonio Community receive their water from. And that’s just to ensure the quality of the water that the community receives.”

Duane Moody for News Five.