Criteria set to help NCC pick land for conservation

| 01/09/2016 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The Department of Environment has come up with a list of criteria to help the National Conservation Council select potential sensitive habitats on land across the Cayman Islands to purchase and preserve. The public consultation period for people to nominate areas is open until the end of October, and in order to help pick the best, Fred Burton, the former director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme who is now working full time with the DoE’s terrestrial programme, has designed an objective way of measuring the nominations.

Speaking at the most recent NCC meeting, Burton said there was no way to know how many nominations would come into the council for land that could be set aside, but as there were likely to be more nominations for parcels of land than the department had cash to buy, there had to be a scientific and objective way of measuring the best potential areas for conservation.

He and a team from the DoE set about developing a scoring system and objective tools so that they can spend the $6 million set aside from the Environmental Protection Fund wisely and try to remove subjective opinion in the decision-making process. Burton said it would not be possible to remove subjectivity completely but it was important to establish relevant criteria that would help the experts measure the nominations.

He said relevant considerations included the diversity of species on a particular parcel of land, particularly the number of endangered species and the urgency to preserve those endangered species; the ecological functions; climate change concerns and the effective carbon lock in a given habitat or its resilience to climate change.

Other factors such as the cost to buy and manage the land would also be considered, as well as the land’s value to tourism or ecological services, although he noted that those could be very difficult to quantify.

The scoring system will give greater weight to key considerations such as the biology of the land, and Burton said the criteria that the team worked out was based on expert research. Not wishing to leave things to chance, they have tested it out on theoretical land suggestions, he said. The team had put together a collection of 100 blocks of undisturbed land across all three islands and did a dummy review using the new criteria, which resulted in objective selections.

Burton proposed that the NCC adopt the scoring system for this first round of nominations and see how it worked. It could be reassessed, he said, but the aim was “to try not to meddle with it during the process of assessment” that will start after the nomination period closes.

See the draft Scoring system for ranking of Nominations for Terrestrial Protection Areas on the CNS Library

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (1)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    So therefore a landowner could go where to find out if it had a high score or a low score?
    When the East-West arterial rd goes through the land will double. We all want to do the right thing ,just be fair .

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