An important management tool for Payne’s Creek National Park and the surrounding areas is the proper management of fire. Although the tropical pine savannah and grassland ecosystems are fire-dependent, too much fire is harmful. Human-made fires are occurring too frequently, threatening to convert the pine savannah (an endangered ecosystem) into grassland without pine. This would be bad news for many species, including the endangered yellow-headed parrot, which uses pine trees to nest.
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Fortunately for the yellow-headed parrots and their habitat, our terrestrial manager, Mr. Mario Muschamp, is one of Belize’s leading experts on fire management. He and his team form a crucial part of the Southern Belize Fire Working Group, a collaboration between TIDE, the Belize Forest Department, Ya’axché Conservation Trust and two private logging concessionaires, Thomas Gomez & Sons and the Wood Depot. The group works together to manage fire at the landscape level. They fight wildfires and conduct prescribed burns that prevent larger, destructive fires from occurring.
TIDE is investing in developing the capacity of the Southern Belize Fire Working Group because fire management skills are likely to become more necessary under projected climate change scenarios. Annual training is conducted in-house or by international experts, including those from the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and from the Everglades National Park, Florida. In 2012, five members of the Southern Belize Fire Working Group were lucky enough to visit the Everglades to learn about the latest technology and techniques.