Cayman should preserve at least 30% of land

| 22/05/2022 | 66 Comments
Cayman News Service
Critically endangered ‘Old George’ bromeliad (from social media)

(CNS): The Cayman Islands needs to place at least 30% of its terrestrial habitat under formal protection to have a chance of preserving the nation’s natural resources, according to Fred Burton, the director of the Terrestrial Resources Unit at the Department of the Environment. Speaking on Radio Cayman’s Talk Today programme last week, the local flora and fauna expert said that Cayman should be aiming for this United Nations goal to preserve its unique but threatened biodiversity.

Burton said the current presumption of our economic system is one of endless growth, which he warned will undermine our quality of life and the biodiversity of the islands. Instead, Cayman needs to institute a plan based on the UN recommendations to set aside 30% of the land, as well as marine areas, for protection to secure the natural resources we depend on to live.

“If we do that and we are sensitive about developing the rest, we can save the biodiversity that is native to the Cayman Islands,” he said. “We can have places where people can get out of the hustle and bustle of life, and go and walk in nature. We will have our unique and iconic species that people identify with the islands. That would be some sort of compromise where we can co-exist,” Burton said.

But he warned that if we do not and we carry on with the pace of development that is making Cayman an urban environment, we will begin to see the extinction of flora and fauna. “We will start to lose species and the connections of life,” he said. People are already seeing this happen and the urbanization of Cayman is increasing stress, he noted.

“Noise is a stress factor; urban living is a stress factor. Access to nature is a stress reliever, but we are pushing towards noise and urban [life] and getting further away from nature,” Burton warned. “I don’t think the quality of life is better, in a real fundamental sense, than it was 20 or 30 years ago.”

Supporting Burton’s position on Friday, which was Endangered Species Day, environmental activists from Sustainable Cayman wrote to Premier Wayne Panton and his Ministry for Sustainability, urging him to adopt the idea of preserving 30% of our natural world.

The group is asking PACT to join in the worldwide initiative “30 by 30“, which is the goal to protect 30% of the planet’s wild habitat over the next eight years. “This is not only an ‘environmental’ issue, but a ‘human survival’ issue as well,” Sustainable Cayman said in its submissions to Panton, adding that protecting the environment stabilises communities and economies and improves their resilience.

“The Cayman Islands faces threats from climate change, biodiversity losses, and a degradation of natural services. Concurrently, quality of life and security for our people is rapidly diminishing,” the activists said as they submitted a roadmap for how government can achieve this goal in Cayman, where currently just over 11% of our natural wild habitat is preserved.

The National Conservation Council is also hoping to boost that number. It has around $7 million available this year and next to spend on buying land or entering into management agreements with landowners to preserve our dwindling habitat. This week it extended the nomination period, giving the public until the end of May to submit ideas for terrestrial areas that should be protected.

Burton said that during the process, as well as considering access, cultural significance and current ownership, the NCC is given technical advice on the biodiversity of the nominated lands by the DoE in order to make the best choices.

Several nominations have been made already, including an area of forest already owned by the crown and close to UCCI. Often referred to as the Ironwood Forest, it is home to Cayman’s critically endangered, endemic ghost orchid (Dendrophylax fawcettii) as well as Old George (Wittmackia caymanensis), an impressive bromeliad that grows nowhere else.

Burton noted the imperative of protecting contiguous stretches of habitat in order to preserve more species, and the need to manage the areas to enable human access while prioritising conservation.

Simone Williams, a DoE researcher who appeared with Burton on the show, urged the public to submit their ideas, pointing out that the only way to restore Cayman’s biodiversity is to “re-wild areas and nominate protected areas”.

See the Sustainable Cayman document in the CNS Library.

See Burton and Williams on Talk Today below:


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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (66)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    @ Fred Burton, et, al:
    Woah folks! Before you enviro activists try to talk Panton and his PACT into protecting the environment by preserving 30% of our land, take a look at the record and get on the ball and demand that the existing environmental laws be properly implemented and enforced:
    One glaring problem is that the feckless PACT seem not to give two stinking lumps of merd about upholding and enforcing existing laws and regulations and being pro-active about protecting what we have, today. In light of the threats to the environment and biodiversity, do a close study of the National Conservation Law (NCL) and the associated Regulations: You will see the law is reasonably good, but, it is not anywhere near fully implemented, much less supported so that it can be properly enforced in order to preserve biodiversity. A fair degree of protection is framed in the law, but the law is impotent without proper implementation of the structures and procedures that the law requires in order for the law to be in full force. Panton, et al, have done next to nothing to improve this.
    For example: there are numerous protected species in Schedule 1 of the National Conservation Law, but there are only a few which included in the National Conservation Regulations. We see just some sea life and blue winged teal in the Regulations.
    Now look at Part 4-17.(1) of the NCL–speaking of the obligation of the National Conservation Council reads thusly:
    “The Council shall formulate and adopt a conservation plan for each protected species whose range includes the Islands”. Then reading the attached SCHEDULE 1, PART 1 “SPECIES PROTECTED AT ALL TIMES” we see many species of fauna and flora that are “protected at all times”. But when we go to the official National Conservation Council website there are only FOUR of the mandated Conservation Plans plans published there, covering Mangrove and Buttonwood, turtles, Sybil’s Crownbeard, and blue-winged teal. Huh?? Seriously? Those plans do not cover even a tiny minority of the Protected Species in Schedule 1 of the NCL!
    Then go to the official Department of the Environment NCL webpage and try to find the regulations! In the blurb about the NCL, it says “For more information on the National Conservation Law, including supporting documents such as: Commencement Orders, Regulations, National Conservation Council (License & Permit) Directives, EIA Directives and Guidance notes please click here.” But when you “click here” it brings you right back to the page you clicked from! The website is a freaking pathetic joke that looks and performs like it was designed by a bunch of high school kids. If the website is any indication of how seriously Panton and his crewe take conservation, we know they are taking us for fools who are silly enough to believe their putrid spewing about how important the environment is to them.

    I shall suggest to the Panton and his government that they would do well to uphold, fund and enforce the existing protections, laws and regulations as a prime priority in regard to the environment. Their performance thus far tells us that any new new initiatives will likely be just as poorly implemented, just as laxly enforced, just as pitifully funded, just as pathetically presented to the public, and just as likely to be allowed waivers and variances as the existing so-called “protections”. Protecting land that an owner intends on developing from being flattened totally and having even protected species hauled away to the dump would be a hell of a good start.
    The Panton PACTless Clown Car government is a joke. They need to get their damn act together!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ya think! Stop selling land to foreigners!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Agreed. Build up, not sideways

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  4. Anonymous says:

    2nd Nomination Process by NCC! What happened to the last proposal where nominated lands were voted on but Government didn’t follow through with the most important ones! Now how much will the government have to pay vs making that decision on the 1st nomination! Time to dig into that ENVIRONMENTAL FUND!

    $60mm/ maybe $50mm/ not even sure what it is but it’s definitely not $60mm now! Anyone know what the Environment Funds are at now? And what’s the plan?

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Let’s start with ALL the remaining undeveloped mangrove areas on the WB peninsula. Oh wait, that will never happen.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    There’s some semantics that needs to be addressed here.

    Most zoning only allows for 30% coverage of a site. Which means 70% is to remain unbuilt. You subtract some for road and parking and pools but after that it is way more than 30% remaining of landscaped areas in most cases. The central mangroves are protected from building and nobody wants to build there anyway and that space looks to be at least 30% of Grand Cayman’s land mass. Little and Brac are way less developed and have even more untouched land.

    So as it stands I would think it would be very very difficult to actually have less than 30%. We’d have to really try to hit that target and I am fairly sure the current guidelines will keep this line from being crossed.

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    • Nut. 4 real says:

      Have you been blind.

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      • Anonymous says:

        No but I can do math. Look at a one acre piece of land. An acre is 43,560 square feet. 30% coverage of that 13,068 square feet. So if you build a single store home on one acre it could be up to 13,068 square feet and 70% (less parking and pool) would be left unbuilt. Do you know anyone with a 13,009 square foot single story home sitting on an acre?

        Obviously certain specific properties especially with a lot of parking will have more site coverage, especially in really built up spaces. But the vast majority of the land in this country does not fall into that category. The central mangroves alone are more than 30% of the area of the country.

        So no, I’m not blind. But as I said this guy’s statement needs some clarification for exactly the reason I just explained.

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    • Anonymous says:

      There may be rules for site coverage by buildings but there are none to prevent clearing every last tree, stick and leaf.

      Every lot is now striped bare and filled to the boundaries. Look around, lot on land side Spotts straight for example, the new development next to the Botanic Park is another.

      It’s no wonder that NCC and DOE are at their wits end making unheeded recommendations for retention of vegetation.

      You’d be forgiven for wondering if people really have no idea where oxygen comes from.

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    • Clarified says:

      Unbuilt as part of a development does not mean it is nature positive or helping biodiversity which is the point of 30×30- correction no 1.

      You mention that the central mangrove wetlands are protected and no-one wants to build there which is untrue- correction no 2.

      And for correction no 3, a primary objective of the NRA is to put a bypass through the central mangrove wetlands is to open up the area for development. The road is to be 150 ft wide and 10 miles long. The area set aside for development along the road is hush hush but the majority is owned by private individuals.

    • Anonymous says:

      @11:17:
      In regard to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, the first thing that almost all developers or builders of private homes do is to bulldoze 100% of the land flat, leaving nothing standing but the boundary beacons. Everything green and living things smashed up, go to the dump. They rape the land and even illegally mow down the beach ridge without proper permission. You obviously have not been to Cayman Brac or Little Cayman to see the environmental devastation that is accompanying the current surge in development. The Sister Islands may indeed have more “untouched land”, but when the land is is touched, it is almost always left barren.

  7. Anonymous says:

    As much as I would love it to happen, we all know that it’s not going to happen. Money wins.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    I have a few suggestions: Owen’s Island, Point of Sand, lighthouse Cayman Brac, all the Brac caves, Tiara Beach and they shouldn’t have let Scott’s Dock go to Frank. They should have bought it while it was for sale.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Why are we concerned about a trail through the swampland? How many have been through the swamp in their life? How many people go to the beach per week? Lets protect the beach for the majority. It’s a no-brainer. Dave SR

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Vote PPM …they will allow all to be sold billionaires

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  11. Anonymous says:

    Noise pollution is the reason why people never return to the island. The idyllic post card pictures do not match up anymore. Life is short. All those peaceful contemplative moments lost to consistent loud music and construction, its not worth it.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Freaking leaf blowers, roosters and the beeping of diggers reversing is the sound track to Cayman. The noisy salivating over money is done behind closed doors thankfully.

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      • Anonymous says:

        You left out the rock hammers strip mining any available lot. And aircraft passing up and down the spine of the island all day. CAACI AACI please reroute this unnecessary imposition on our quiet enjoyment of life.

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    • Unhappy Caymanian says:

      Cayman is a poor tourism product. No that’s too generous, it’s total garbage.

      Always has been.

      There is a lot better elsewhere for at lot less $. Always has been.

      Thailand, Phillipines, Costa Rica, Honduras, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Jamaica to name a few places that get my repeat holiday business.

      Unless of course you liked the plastic bear (Polar, I think) in George Town welcoming tourists back to these enchanted isles. Bears of course being native to Cayman and to the Caribbean in general.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Bloody noisy polluting marl trucks need regulating, hard.

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  12. Dave says:

    Then scrap new highway plan for west to East road from Hirst road to Frank Sound!All we need new bus system with ETA real time on smartphones.

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    • Denis says:

      It is a pointless endeavour to encourage/promote a reliable and practical bus system for a two-lane (1 in each direction) coastal road for the Eastern Districts if your buses are stuck in the traffic stream like every other vehicles.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Reliable bus system means 5 to 10 cars off road per bus.

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        • Denis says:

          Are you prepared to depend on the bus system for all your travels on Grand Cayman then?

          • Anonymous says:

            Most people here aren’t. That’s for sure.

          • Anonymous says:

            Many visitors don’t have a problem taking the bus as they are used to doing this in their own country. It’s just ignorance in this country that prevents any positive change.

      • Equality a priority says:

        It is time to take urgent action to invest in public transport to ensure that:

        >Green public transport creates decent work and powers the fight against the climate crisis
        >Affordable ticket prices allow lower income workers to access transportation
        >Reliable schedules provide quality, accessible services for workers and passengers
        >Women passengers and transport workers are provided with a safe environment free from violence and harassment
        >Cities around the world meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement
        >Vulnerable communities can move freely throughout our cities

        Together, build a brighter, more sustainable and more financially secure future with public transport for everyone, everywhere. A road does not benefit all.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    Did Dart get the memo?

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Use the $7 million to buy ocean land back from DART so we the people can enjoy OUR beaches!!!!

    The real solution, is to rezone the land. Upzone all George Town proper land. Downzone all Bodden Town and eastern district land to 1 dwelling unit per 5 acres. See its not so hard.

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  15. Unhappy Caymanian says:

    Pipe dream.

    This horse has bolted.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Start with the undeveloped lots, leave them that way. Especially the ripping out of mangroves for years and years before anyone builds.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    I wish. This would be beautiful but in our current state of development obsessed anything goes, CPA approves anything policies, preservation of even 10 per cent is a looney tunes pipe dream.

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    • Anonymous says:

      From the article: “Cayman, where currently just over 11% of our natural wild habitat is preserved”. So, clearly “preservation of even 10 per cent is a looney tunes pipe dream” (OP statement) is wrong. We’ve already passed 10%, next 20%, then 30%. It might not be easy, but it is clearly not crazily out of reach.

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      • Anonymous says:

        OP here: you have more faith in our future leadership’s ability to keep their hands of vacant land than I do. I like your comment and I only pray you are correct.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    That’s one opinion.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    Fred isn’t thinking, – if we were to hold fast and maintain only the 11% of terrestrial habitat that would likely reap a larger price than the UN recommended 30% for Pantons wheeze of ‘selling the natural resources’, – a simple supply & demand equation, come on Fred, saving the blue was one thing, saving Caymanians and humanity from PACT and developers is quite another.🚜🌴❌🤷🏽‍♀️

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  20. Anonymous says:

    The road through the Ironwood Forest is marching forward. The Crown parcel is only a part of what is needed to preserve the habitats that support the unique biodiversity there. Say no to the road.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I wonder where the passion of those that stopped Action Man Arden McLean from getting that road through the Iron Wood forest in 2005/9 have gone to now? Not a peep!

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  21. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately we have empty governments time and time again that talk a big game but just destroy the environment again and again. Ecotourism should be the aim of these islands and preserving as much wildlife and sealife possible.

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    • Anonymous says:

      It should but Caymanians don’t appear to give a sh*t about any of that stuff. And by Caymanians, it starts with the top.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    So no helipads and bike trails then? Got it.

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  23. Orrie Merren says:

    Cayman’s Constitution has a fundamental right to “Protection of the Environment”, enshrined in section 18 of our Bill of Rights, which reads:

    “(1) Government shall, in all its decisions, have due regard to the need to foster and protect an environment that is not harmful to the health or well-being of present and future generations, while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

    (2) To this end government should adopt reasonable legislative and other measures to protect the heritage and wildlife and the land and sea biodiversity of the Cayman Islands that—

    (a) limit pollution and ecological degradation;

    (b) promote conservation and biodiversity; and

    (c) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources.”

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    • Unhappy Caymanian says:

      When has any Caymanian cared about the constitution?

      $$$$$$$$ that’s what Caymanians care about

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      • Orrie Merren says:

        Our Constitution is the supreme law of the Cayman Islands: s.59 (read together with s.124), Constitution.

        Our Bill of Rights “is a cornerstone of democracy in the Cayman Islands” (s.1(1), BoR), which (inter alia) “recognises the distinct history, culture, Christian values and socio-economic framework of the Cayman Islands and it affirms the rule of law” (s.1(2)(a), BoR).

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      • Anonymous says:

        100%

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    • Anonymous says:

      Run for office

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      • Anonymous says:

        I second this! Do it Orrie!

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      • Anonymous says:

        Ha why do you think he is so vocal now a days ?

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        • Anonymous says:

          Election or no election, anyone that knows Orrie knows that he has always cared deeply about these islands.

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        • Junius says:

          We are all entitled to exercise free speech, including Orrie and yourself. No harm done by either you or him doing so. That’s the beauty of a democratic society.

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          • Orrie Merren says:

            Thank you for hitting the nail on the head, Junius. I completely agree.

            All lives matter and all views are important to consider. We can always agree to disagree.

            This is a good thing, especially when done so respectfully and constructively.

            Freedom of expression is protected in our Constitution (enshrined in s.11, Bill of Rights).

            This is a hallmark of a healthy democratic society that upholds the rule of law.

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