NT sets sights on critical habitat for conservation

| 28/07/2021 | 4 Comments
  • Cayman News Service
  • Cayman News Service

(CNS): The National Trust for the Cayman Islands is hoping to boost the coffers of its Land Reserve Fund in order to acquire three separate pieces of land for conservation after the owners offered to sell to the charity. The Trust said the pieces of land have been prioritised for purchase, including acreage in the Mastic Trail area, part of the Central Mangrove Wetland and ancient forest in the Frank Sound area. The Trust already manages several hundred acres of forested land in the Mastic Reserve and hopes to add to the land that it can protect in the area.

The Central Mangrove Wetland is the largest continuous mangrove system in the Caribbean at some 8,600 acres but it is under increasing pressure from physical development. The Trust said it is looking to acquire a further tract of land, given the importance of preserving this habitat along with the native and endemic species it supports.

More than 70% of Grand Cayman’s western mangroves have been lost since the 1970s. Even though mangroves are protected species, the only way to ensure they are not lost to the bulldozer during the process of development is for the land where they are to be purchased for conservation.

Earlier this year representatives for the Trust attended a Central Planning Authority meeting regarding development encroaching into the central wetlands in an effort to persuade the board and the developers to draw a proverbial line, not in the sand but in the swamp, to protect this critical habitat.

While developers on that occasion agreed to a phased approach and to look at incorporating the mangroves into the public land requirement, the area remains at risk as the former planning chairman, Al Thompson, was reluctant to send any signal about curbing development even in this highly sensitive environment because doing so might devalue the land that people owned.

While the Trust owns several hundreds of acres in the central wetlands, it does not own all of it. But the more it can acquire, the lower the risk of the feared fragmentation of the habitat that could have an adverse impart on Cayman’s micro climate and wider land and marine habitats.

In addition to acquiring more mangroves, the Trust said that a piece of old and undisturbed forest, an increasingly rare commodity, in Frank Sound is currently available for it to buy.

“This year we have an opportunity to purchase a parcel of old-growth forest,” said Trust Executive Director Annick Jackman. “We are excited about this because it is ancient forest that has not been disturbed and is home to many endemic species. Persons donating to the fund would be contributing to the legacy of Grand Cayman’s natural heritage. We are grateful to the landowners for making their land available for the NTCI to purchase and protect.”

The Land Reserve Fund was created to buy land specifically hold in perpetuity for conservation of environmentally sensitive lands across the Cayman Islands. A public drive to support the initiative was launched through a recent fundraising event, sponsored by CIBC FirstCaribbean, and work continues to raise the necessary money.

“Currently, the National Trust protects over 3,531 acres of land across all three islands, preserving just under 6% of land in the Cayman Islands with a goal to reach 11%,” Jackman said. “The support of organisations like CIBC FirstCaribbean and individual donors is critical for the National Trust to achieve its conservation goals. Together we can preserve the natural beauty and precious ecosystems that are unique to our three islands.”

As well as preserving land to protect endangered species and ecosystems, many members of the community visit Trust property to enjoy and explore Cayman’s natural and historic treasures, even when there are no tourists due to the pandemic. Olson Anderson, the board chair said, “It is our privilege to hold these important sites in trust for the people of the Cayman Islands to enjoy for generations to come.”

NTCI properties include culturally significant sites such as the Mission House as well as important nature reserves, such as the Brac Parrot Reserve in Cayman Brac, the Mastic Trail in Grand Cayman and Booby Pond in Little Cayman. Acquiring more land in the Sister Islands also continues to be a goal for the trust and is seeking additional funding to support these specific purchases.

The public is encouraged to pledge funds to protect these areas and other sites of environmental importance identified by the NTCI Land Reserve Fund going forward.

For more information contact director@nationaltrust.org.ky or visit the website www.nationaltrust.org.ky to learn more and donate towards the Land Reserve Fund.

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    A little bit too late you think? For crying out loud, they are now digging up the dead in the name of progress. Shame on planning and the government. What next?

  2. Kman says:

    Well done National Trust Cayman. A great idea would be to use some of the $40 million from the Environmental Fund to purchase land for Conservation areas. Also look at creating a National Raffle Drive with prizes, the drive would be done at schools to educate our children to donate to their own future and businesses will match the funds the public has raised. I’ll do my part as a 6th generation Caymanian and donate to the NT Cayman in supporting them in their conservation efforts.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is fantastic!

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