Recognizing the need for a conservation management program for the Bladen Nature Reserve (BNR), the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE) was founded in 1995 with the primary purpose of developing and implementing a conservation program for the BNR. To achieve this goal, BFREE acquired a 1,153 area privately protected area and established a biological field station strategically located in the foothills of the Maya Mountains at the gateway to BNR and bordering four national parks and reserves.
Working with multiple stakeholders, BFREE conducts a wide array of conservation activities both within the BFREE privately protected area and in neighboring reserves. BFREE has increased awareness of the Bladen Nature Reserve and the greater Maya Mountains by highlighting their conservation value and biological significance to ensure this tropical wilderness is recognized as a core conservation area within northern Central America and is preserved for future generations in its undisturbed and natural state.
BFREE’s mission is, “to conserve the biodiversity and cultural heritage of Belize.”
The field station is situated on a 1,153 acre private reserve; access is a 10-km unpaved road that requires passage through the Bladen Nature Reserve. The land borders four protected areas: the Bladen Nature Reserve, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary Deep River Forest Reserve, and Maya Mountain Forest Reserve. All are part of the larger Maya Mountain Massif which includes 16 protected areas covering almost 2 million acres of continuous tropical forest. The land sits approximately 60 meters above sea level on a rich alluvial soil matrix and is covered entirely in a tropical broadleaf rainforest. Habitats include a variety of tropical forest types and aquatic ecosystems. The average tree canopy height is about 25 meters with emergent trees reaching 45-50 meters. Ancient Mayan archeological sites are found at BFREE; including house mounds and a terraced hillside nearby. The biodiversity found at BFREE is exceptional and shares many of the same characteristics as the Bladen Nature Reserve.
As the only field station in this biologically significant area, BFREE seeks to achieve its mission by successfully integrating scientific research, environmental education, and conservation to help conserve the Maya Mountains, one of the last remaining unspoiled wilderness areas of its kind.
BFREE promotes and facilitates scientific research onsite, within the Bladen Nature Reserve, and other neighboring protected areas. Working collaboratively with international and local partners, BFREE implements both short and long-term research and monitoring programs with a focus on building capacity within Belize. In addition, BFREE offers content-specific learning experiences that often challenge individuals to step outside of their comfort zone. These courses range in length from one week to a full semester and are structured to encourage participants to actively engage with and appreciate their natural environment. Partnerships include research and educational institutions, conservation organizations, government agencies and businesses.