Hackensack Riverkeeper hosts first Waterkeeper of Belize
The Central American nation of Belize is a unique and fascinating place, filled with tropical rainforests and Mayan ruins. Hundreds of bird species fill the skies, manatees and crocodiles can be found in its mangrove swamps, Howler monkeys leap from tree to tree and jaguars still prowl the forest floor. The people of Belize are a people at one with their environment, at peace with the world around them.
Running for over 150 miles from the jungle highlands near the Guatemalan border to the Caribbean Sea is the Belize River – the latest of the world’s Rivers to have a Keeper, Belize Riverkeeper Derek Chan. Like New Jersey’s Keepers (Captain Bill, Andy Willner, Maya Van Rossum and Bill Schultz), Mr. Chan is dedicated to environmental protection as well as assuring his people’s right of access to their waterway. Belizeans (most of whom speak English as their native language) traditionally use the River for fishing, hunting and travel, much the way their Mayan ancestors did.
The Belize River is also visited each year by a growing number of birders and eco-tourists from around the globe that have discovered the former British colony. The River also hosts an annual canoe race, which attracts hundreds of paddlers from throughout the Hemisphere. It is in this mixture of old and new that Derek begins his tenure as Keeper.
Last October, Capt. Bill received a call from the Water Keeper Alliance Headquarters in New York, asking if he would agree to host Derek for a weekend so he could see firsthand how a Keeper spends his days. Needless to say, the Captain was more than happy to oblige. And oblige he did, showing and explaining the job of Riverkeeper to Derek from his desk, from the site of a Watershed Watch incident and from the helm of the “Robert H. Boyle.” It was a truly enlightening experience for both men.
The only real problem Derek had was adjusting to the 50-degree difference in air temperature between the Belize and Hackensack River watersheds. But in true Keeper fashion, when asked about it, he just shrugged it off with a smile. Truly a fortunate man and a fortunate River.