The pristine jungles of the Maya mountains majestically looking over the emerald valley has been providing water to the southeastern watershed communities of Belize from the beginning of the 19th century. Potable water has been reaching the homes of three emerald valley communities of Alta Vista, Steadfast and valley Community since 1978. This sweet water emanates from the Billy Barquedier Creek and other tributaries that are now protected by the Billy Barquedier National Park. The creek got its name in the early 60’s because of the Barquedier that was located in the area where the creek exits the park. (Barquedier is a place where logs are stock piled prior to being transported to the sawmill.) How Billy got into the name is still a mystery.
Because of the shortage of land in the Emerald Valley, in 1994 an assessment of the Mullins River Basin was done to verify the possibility of distributing farm lands to the people of the Emerald Valley to avoid encroachment on the steep slopes of the valley. Because of the topography and composition of the soil in the area, this assessment recommended that it would be best to leave the area in its natural state. This recommendation was a wake-up call to the communities of the valley who realized that it was important to protect the area.
A group of villagers from Steadfast Village took up the challenge and organized themselves and started to advocate for the area to be protected. After seven years of lobbying with the government, the group succeeded in getting 1600 acres of land encompassing the Billy Barquedier Creek and extending from the Stann Creek Valley Road all the way over the mountains to the Mullins River, declared a national park in 2001. The area is now proudly named the Billy Barquedier National Park (BBNP). The BBNP uniquely houses two sub-watersheds, one feeding the North Stann Creek Watershed and the other feeding the Mullins River Watershed.
This same group then legalized themselves by getting registered as a Non-Government Organization (NGO), in 2003. This group, the Steadfast Tourism And Conservation Association (STACA) was founded by the following totally dedicated people: Hyacinth Ysaguire, Maurice Stanley, Michael Marine, Calistro Mayen, Peter Whyte, Windell Knight, and Anthony Prior.
The group then negotiated with the Forest Department to achieve co-management status of the park in 2004. Even though the organization is registered as an NGO it is basically a Community-ased Organization(CBO). CBO’s normally function in a context of volunteerism, and this CBO is no different.
Since 2004 STACA has been supported with funding from the MAEII Foundation, PACT and the UNDP Global Environmental Fund – Small Grants Program,( GEF/SGP). Through these financial support STACA now boasts a Resource Center/Office in the village of Steadfast.
STACA is also presently implementing several programmes in collaboration with the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT), the University of Belize (UB), the University of Arkansas and Peace Work, The university of El Colegio de la frontera Sur (ECOSUR) from Chetumal Mexico and Sherbrook University of Canada, all supported by the three buffer communities of Alta Vista, Steadfast and Valley Community.
STACA is a member of the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations (APAMO) the umbrella organization of protected areas management organizations and is also the current chair of APAMO.