The Nature Reserves of Northern Belize represents an important part of the entire park and protected area system of Belize. A visitor to Northern Belize can experience all the major habitats of the tropics from the coral reefs and mangroves of Bacalar Chico to the lagoons and wetlands of Shipstern to some of the most pristine tropical forests at Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area. These less visited conservation areas are every bit as rich and diverse as the more popular parks to the south, only less explored and developed.
After Hurricane Janet in 1955 devastated much of the Sarteneja Peninsula, the area's vegetation quickly regenerated and once again turned the area back into one of Belize's richest and ecologically diverse tropical rain forests.
Compared with other reserves in Belize, the terrestrial and marine reserve of Bacalar Chico has only just begun a legacy of conservation. The park officially opened August 23, 1996, after village leaders in Sarteneja began lobbying for a reserve in an area accessible to them and a site visit by NYZS and ITCF in 1991 established the conservation value of the area.
Thanks to the foresight and management of the Programme for Belize, the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, a 250,000-acre tract of subtropical broadleaf forest, has become a national example of sustained forestry development and conservation.
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