The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve (MPRFR) is one of the earliest protected areas declared in Belize. It was established in 1944 to protect and manage the native Belizean pine forests. The elevation of the reserve averages between 400 and 700 m (1,312 to 2,296 ft) with the highest point being Baldy Beacon at 1,017 m (3,336 ft) and dropping to 120 m (394 ft) at the lowest point on the Macal River. The MPRFR has an extension of 43,081.93 hectares (106,457.6 acres) and is under the management and administration of the Belize Forest Department.
Based on an agreement of collaboration with the Belize Forest Department, FCD conducts headwater and fire monitoring duties on the elevated areas of the MPRFR, known as Baldy Beacon. Based at the Cooma Cairn Ranger Outpost, FCD staff duties extends beyond monitoring and conservation efforts. By forging strong partnerships with local community members and private landowners FCD fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility for the environment. Through initiatives like environmental education programs, public participation and research primarily on water quality, FCD encourages the active involvement of communities in the conservation process, ensuring long-term sustainability and stewardship.
The Macal River forms the boundaries of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve to the west and south and is fed by tributaries including Rio Frio, Rio On, Privassion Creek and Pinol Creek. To the north-east, some small streams feed into Barton Creek.
The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is home to many wildlife including the orange-breasted falcon, stygian owl, white king vulture, oscillated turkey, acorn woodpecker, blue crown motmot, keel-billed toucan, and red-lored parrots. The reserve is also home to pumas, jaguars, and the endangered ocelot, coatimundi, White-tail Deer and the Baird’s tapir, Belize’s national animal.
Recognizing the crucial role of forests in maintaining ecological integrity, FCD places immense importance on forest conservation and headwater protection. Cooma Cairn Ranger Outpost supports the work of the Belize Forest Department and serves as a monitoring station to buffer impacts from an advancing human footprint into the Chiquibul National Park.
Rising to an impressive elevation, the Baldy Beacon grants visitors panoramic views extending across the lush forest canopy, rolling hills, and distant valleys. As the third highest point in Belize, this remarkable landscape is a testament to the incredible geological diversity within Belize. Its prominent position affords a commanding perspective, allowing observers to appreciate the vastness of the surrounding landscape.
The Cooma Cairn Ranger Outpost manned by Friends for Conservation and Development, supports the work of the Belize Forest Department. FCD’s disciplined Ranger team stationed at the site is unwavering in their commitment to conserving biodiversity and protecting headwaters through community engagement, setting an exemplary platform for effective conservation practices. Amidst the growing environmental challenges worldwide, the presence of Rangers at this location, protects a remarkable range of wildlife, including species such as jaguars, tapirs, and scarlet macaws. With a permanent presence established in this remote region, FCD proactively protects the unique environment.