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Rio Bravo

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Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area

The Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area contributes 260,000 acres of lush rainforest to the Maya Forest, which stretches across the Belizean border into Mexico and Guatemala. Rio Bravo lies in the Orange Walk district in northwestern Belize, bordering Guatemala and sharing a boundary with the Aguas Turbias National Park. Rio Bravo is named for the river traversing this protected area, which is almost entirely covered by subtropical moist forest.

did you know?

Rio Bravo serves as a key site for The Nature Conservancy's Climate Action Project.  The project is estimated to reduce, avoid or mitigate up to 8.8 million tons of carbon dioxide over 40 years. Read more....

Rio Bravo field station

Field stations, Rio Bravo © Gary Braasch

site profile

total area protected:
260,000 acres
map of site

Belizean Pine Forest, Brazilian Coastal Atlanitic Forest, Peten Moist Forest, Yucatan Moist Forest

partner organization:
Programme for Belize (PfB)

Ecological Importance

Rio Bravo is an ecologically diverse area with extensive hardwood forests, pine savanna, and wetlands. It is considered one of the most important areas in the region for mahogany, cedar, and other commercially valuable tree species. Abundant in wildlife, Rio Bravo is reputed to have the healthiest and most plentiful population of jaguars in all of Central America. However, the jaguar remains one of the most threatened species in Rio Bravo, along with ocelot, puma, jaguarundi, and margay, black howler monkey, Baird's tapir, white-lipped peccary, and the red brocket deer.


Local farming communities pose one of the greatest threats to the reserve. The Parks in Peril (PiP) partner, Programme for Belize (PfB), has identified uncontrolled aerial spraying of crops by farmers as a severe problem.

Local threats to the park stem from illegal human settlement, agricultural encroachment, changes in nearby land use, looting of archaeological sites, unauthorized chicle (latex) tapping, and hunting. Timber theft, mainly of mahogany, poses a serious and ongoing threat while unlawful chicle extraction effects some 30 percent of the Rio Bravo area. In each instance, careless harvesting of chicle often results in tree mortality.

A Strategy of Success

In the late 1980s, Rio Bravo was in danger of being cleared of its tropical forests. In 1988, The Nature Conservancy helped partner organization PfB secure the initial 110,000 acre property. When Rio Bravo began receiving PiP funding in 1992, the main goal of PfB was to establish a community outreach and education project. Initially the “Friends of Rio Bravo” outreach program was launched to promote understanding of Rio Bravo and its management among the public and to collaborate and establish good relationships with the surrounding local communities.

Outreach activities have propelled PfB to the forefront as a leading non-governmental organization in Belize committed to environmental education. PfB has also made giant steps towards creating employment in local communities and training community groups to participate in the economic activities at Rio Bravo. In many instances, PfB was able to consolidate community projects so that the communities were completely in charge of operations.

With the help of PiP, PfB was able to transform the La Milpa Field Station from a research-only facility to an education outreach center. Today, La Milpa features a center for activities in natural history, archaeology, ecology, scientific research, cultural history, nature tourism and the promotion of “green” technologies.

Upon site consolidation, PfB education and outreach led to a significant decrease in hunting and timber extraction in Rio Bravo. With PiP funding, PfB was able to focus on its mission of environmental education and outreach for the future of Rio Bravo.

Read more about Rio Bravo...

Programme for Belize (PfB)
The Nature Conservancy in Rio Bravo
Rio Bravo Climate Action Project

Read more about projects in Belize...

Belize Partner Organizations

The Nature Conservancy in Belize