Establishment of strategic enforcement plan/framework for improved management effectiveness, which can be applied to other protected areas

Full Solution
Aerial image of Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, Lighthouse Reef Atoll
Belize Audubon Society

Protected areas managers are entrusted with maintaining the values of protected areas, IUCN defined some of these as: maintaining functional natural ecosystems, serving as refuges for species, maintaining ecological processes, and serving as natural recreational space. Enforcement focuses on safeguarding these values. Belize Audubon Society developed a strategic enforcement plan, which provides step-by-step guidance in developing an enforcement strategy. It is designed to support strategies that improve compliance, ultimately reducing illegal activities to minimize negative impacts on natural resources and values. The focus is not just on the ground enforcement presence, but also strengthening partnerships and collaborations to achieve effective conservation success, and identifying supporting actions - community engagement, opportunities for diversified incomes, and improving community resilience to reduce the need for illegal incursions. The manual is a framework that can be adapted by different protected area managers.

Last update: 02 Jun 2023
Challenges addressed
Poor monitoring and enforcement

Protected areas in Belize are established with Statutory Instruments that describe the protected areas. Management plans then outline the values of the protected areas, be it for natural values, tourism or cultural values, timber resources, watersheds, biodiversity, or as a fisheries management tool. Human activities at times do not align with these values that protected area managers are tasked to maintain. One mechanism of addressing this is enforcement, which can help maintain values in the short, medium and long term. 

Scale of implementation
Tropical deciduous forest
Coral reef
Poaching and environmental crime
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Central America
Summary of the process

As per our experience the success of a strategic enforcement plan relies on a few crucial pieces.

1.   Design and development of plan must be a participatory process: having the right people in the room is key in getting the context right, developing realistic enforcement objectives and ultimately the best possible plan. Stakeholders and government agencies support can be attained in this process, without which they can either help or hinder processes. 


2.   Honesty: at all phases of the enforcement plan development the truth is essential. If not, we run the risk that the context, external/internal drivers, institutional capacity and needs are not properly accounted for and the value of the plan can be drastically reduced. Once we know where we stand, we can move forward.


3. Legislation: Having an appreciation of the legislations that governs protected areas and wildlife protection provides direction for jurisdiction, authority, and legal processes that protected areas managers can operate.

Building Blocks
Situational Analysis—National Context for enforcement of selected Protected Area

In order to develop your enforcement strategy there are key pieces of information that must be collated and understood. These include lay of the land (why is the protected area important, what are the natural assets that need protection), legal framework (what laws apply, what agencies are involved in protected area enforcement/management), and finally what do you want to focus on: enforcement goals. 

Enabling factors

Informed, capacitated people should be involved in the process. Enforcement goals need to be S.M.A.R.T  (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound), this can only happen if the context is correctly represented. 

Lesson learned

Context is key in the design of enforcement goals. Having a participatory process gets support and buy in from partner agencies and communities making enforcement “easier”.

Build collaborative environment

Enforcement involves more than just one organization. The entire process in development and implementation of an enforcement strategy must be participatory. Ultimately, stakeholders must be involved as they can have a positive or negative effect on outcomes. In this case local government agencies are crucial to be involved (i.e coast guard, police, military, government agencies). Equally important are community members of influence who can become stewards educating on legislation and the protected area rules ultimately to help reduce poaching. Additionally, the value of strong community support is the fact that they can become “eyes on the ground”.

Enabling factors

All partners are to be equally valued in terms of input as this will affect implementation. Process of engagement and facilitation are key.

Lesson learned

Ease of implementation of the enforcement plan is directly tied to having good partners and community support.

Building up: Implementation and Monitoring—role of self-analysis, fundraising and tools

Implementation is the desire of any plan. It is the “boots on the ground” that counts. A portion of the equation is developing a protected area enforcement plan. Equally important is the capacity to implement. To determine ability to implement, an organization must carry out a self-analysis. The plan can outline fundraising needs: capacity needs, equipment and tools. Additionally, an organization can have a buildup period for implementation showing donors the full picture of desired impact.

Enabling factors

Adequate financing and resources are needed for implementation and monitoring. If you have these then tracking and monitoring provides the results needed to show the benefit of an enforcement plan.

Lesson learned

The enforcement strategy is a plan, implementation is determined by other factors such as resources. The plan can be a fundraising tool as it clearly outlines desired state and needs.


Protected areas manager—the strategic enforcement plan provides a plan on how to best address enforcement issues via enforcement objectives. The plan systematizes enforcement within the organization. It outlines the needs of the organization and provides a short list for fundraising.


Government agencies—the strategic enforcement plan outlines areas of collaboration and shares guidelines of how the protected area manager will operate within the enforcement plan.


Other partners—the strategic enforcement plan is a tool that can be used by others to develop their own protected area level strategic enforcement plan.  


Protected areas manager—Government agencies—Other protected area managers  

Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 15 – Life on land
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