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FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- The Caribbean Waterbird Census is a region-wide waterbird and wetland monitoring program sponsored by The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds. The goal of this program is to learn more about the distribution, status, and abundance of waterbirds in the Caribbean to improve our conservation planning and management of these beautiful birds and their habitats.
One region-wide count is organized in the winter where everyone counts at the same time during the middle of winter (when birds are most stationary) to get a "snapshot" of waterbird population numbers and habitat use throughout the Caribbean.
An inland pond and a beach were selected as the sites to be monitored as this allows for a wider range of waterbirds to be included in the census. Each site will be visited a total of three times throughout the year.
The second census is planned for March 3rd as this is near to the end of the Migratory period for birds. Persons interested in participating in this very important initiative can call the Rand Nature Centre at 352-5438.
I was very disappointed to have read the comments attributed to Michael Scott in The Nassau Guardian National Review article "The great land giveaway". Putting aside the misleading title for the story, the quotes attributed to Scott seek to suggest that the land, the subject of the Progressive Liberal Party's (PLP) negotiated heads of agreement, was a "gift" to foreigners. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the terms of the deal cannot be objectively characterized as "the greatest land giveaway".
I was mostly disgusted and shocked at Scott's rather shallow characterization of the deal as capable of treating the 350 natives of Mayaguana much like Native Americans being relegated to a reservation. This was utterly silly language which was also unfortunate because it completely misrepresented the intention of the original deal and it perhaps demonstrates the lack of vision and the prospect Mayaguana can have in an economically viable Bahamas by the present leadership of the Hotel Corporation.
The facts of the original agreement
It is untrue and smacks of rather crude political mischief making that the Free National Movement (FNM) will continue to utter a clear falsity that the PLP government conveyed 9,999 acres of Crown land to a foreign entity known as the I-Group in March 2006 in connection with a development at Mayaguana. It is being purported that the present administration has now signed a revised heads of agreement with the I-Group, which has recovered 5,825 acres of the land.
It is so unfortunate that this deliberate untruth is calculated to prey upon the emotive subject of the disposition of Crown land to foreigners for partisan political advantage during this 'election season'.
The truth is that the PLP government led by Perry Christie was unalterably opposed to the sale of this large acreage of Crown land in Mayaguana to the I-Group or any other group of foreigners for large scale development. As a result and after two years of meticulous negotiations, the government entered into a heads of agreement with Mayaguana Island Developers Limited (MID), a joint venture entity owned 50/50 by the government through the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas (HCB) and the I-Group of Boston headed by Stephen Roy, a wealthy and prominent businessman. The land was to be conveyed to the joint venture company only in stages after certain clear milestones of development were reached. There was no agreement for the wholesale purchase or acquisition of 9,999 acres by the I-Group as is being stated.
The specific purpose of both the heads of agreement and the joint venture agreement, as stated therein, was to encourage and facilitate economic growth and development on Mayaguana so as to attract both Bahamians and non-Bahamians as both investors and residents, leaving no doubt that the land in the development area was to be occupied and used by both Bahamians and non-Bahamians, in that order.
The scale of the anchor project which was envisaged at full build out to total more than an estimated $1.7 billion, obligated the joint venture company to prepare and implement, subject to government's approval, a comprehensive plan for the orderly development on the Island of Mayaguana of a viable community, residential, mixed-use resort, commercial, industrial, social and educational developments, associated utilities, airport, marinas, harbor and related infrastructure and nature parks, which would provide a range of new economic opportunities. It was envisaged that in addition to Mayaguana, the development would also positively and significantly impact the economy of the southeastern Bahamas including Inagua, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay and Ragged Island, indeed all of The Bahamas in general.
Under the terms of the original heads of agreement and joint venture agreement, the following key financial considerations applied:
? The Hotel Corporation and I-Group each owned 50 percent of the shares in the capital of Mayaguana Island Developers Limited.
? In consideration of the transfer of the Crown land to MID and the grant of the concessions to MID as contained in the heads of agreement, the I-Group agreed to contribute the entire capital for the initial project in an amount of not less than $14 million, inclusive of $2 million paid by the I-Group to the government at the signing of the heads of agreement and joint venture agreement.
? In addition, MID was to establish the Mayaguana Community Fund, consisting of not less than $1,250,000 by the end of the fifth year, to be augmented annually by 2.5 percent of the revenues of MID thereafter.
? HCB would receive from MID a fee equal to 10 percent of the gross sales price from the sale of residential lots, and five percent of the gross sales price received for the sale of commercial lots. Similarly, under the management agreement between MID and Mayaguana Management Co. Ltd. (MMC) the same amounts were to be paid to MMC.
? HCB and the I-Group would share 50/50 in the profits of MID.
? I-Group and HCB would work cooperatively to attract other investors and additional capital to implement the overall development plans for Mayaguana.
? MID working in cooperation with the government would arrange financial assistance to encourage Bahamians to acquire homes and settle in Mayaguana.
Land use plan
The I-Group met the cost of preparation of a comprehensive regional land use plan for the island of Mayaguana, which was approved by government and became the property of MID. The regional land use plan made provisions for and shows the following:
a. Permanent wetlands that should be excluded from any activity.
b. Seasonal marshlands that should also not be disturbed
c. Conservation areas that should also not be disturbed, but may be considered for some limited common/public use under stringent conditions.
d. Nature preserves that should be properly managed
e. Agricultural lands
f. Ranch lands
g. Undeveloped lands, including land for expansion of existing settlements
h. Public beaches
i. Areas for development by MID, including golf courses
j. Areas that could be developed by other interested parties
k. Commercial activity areas
l. Light industrial activity area around the airport, and
m. Medical/academic campus
What the project was to be
The initial project which was to be completed within two years from the initial project commencement date was well underway when the PLP left office in May 2007. In fact at that point, the I-Group's expenditure had almost doubled the $14 million estimated for its cost. The initial project included inter alia the following:
? Rehabilitation of 7,000 feet of the existing 11,000-foot runway capable of accommodating international service of Boeing 737 aircraft
? Construction of an adequate new terminal building, security and ancillary facilities to international standards as approved by the Department of Civil Aviation and other authorities
? Construction of a 19-unit boutique resort at North Beach, and layout of a 100-lot single family residential subdivision
? Construction of the Mayaguana Harbour Development at Pirate's Well Creek comprising a basin large enough to accommodate up to 10 recreational sized boat slips, a dredged channel, layout of a 50-lot residential subdivision, and a three-unit villa
? Layout of North Beach East Subdivision consisting of 100 lots and construction of a three-unit villa
? Provision of the necessary public utilities to support the foregoing development
? Community projects consisting of improvements to the Mayaguana Health Clinic, construction of science laboratory at Abraham's Bay School, and a lunch, recreation room and outdoor recreational facilities at Pirate's Well School, layout and commissioning of other community recreational facilities, construction of 15 miles of roads within the development area and provision of potable water to local communities at rates to be agreed with Water and Sewerage Corporation
? Layout of an industrial zone in the vicinity of the airport
? Establishment of repair, technical training and materials processing and recovery facilities in the industrial zone
? Preparation of plans and layout for one golf course and commissioning of a putting green and driving range
? Preparation and layout of an equestrian-themed housing subdivision
? Rehabilitation of Nature Centre & Picnic Area at North Beach close to Curtis Creek
? Reserving an area of not less than 20 acres for a public beach in Curtis Creek area - this beach is to be in addition to traditional access enjoyed by Bahamians on all beaches in Mayaguana
? Obtaining a letter of intent from a third party operator for development of 225-room resort in Mayaguana
? Progress on developing Mayaguana as a port of call for cruise lines
? Establishment of nature preserves at Curtis Creek, Blackwood Point, Booby Cay, Long Cay and Pirate's Well Creek - the preserves shall come under the management of a foundation
What the FNM did
After the FNM came to power in May 2007, it set out to frustrate and put road blocks in the way of the Mayaguana project by stopping certain vital duty-free concessions, which stalled the project in which the I-Group had already invested over $25 million. By early 2008 the recession was setting in. As a consequence the frustrated chairman of the I-Group, Stephen Roy, wrote to the prime minister invoking the provisions of the force majeure/unforseen events and delays clause to slow down the project and revise the business plan because of "the adverse change in economic conditions in financial markets in the United States".
Instead of simply agreeing to revise the business plan and extending the concessions, the Ingraham administration, because it did not wish to honor the terms of the heads of agreement which they found in place, seized the opportunity over three long years to exact a revised agreement out of the I-Group under the guise of getting back some 5,825 acres of Crown land. This revised agreement is less in the public interest in terms of the reduced scope of the project and the outright grant of some 4,000 acres of crown land to a foreign owned company.
An important safeguard in ensuring that the provisions of the heads of agreement, joint venture agreement and management agreement as approved by the PLP administration are fully implemented, is the provision for the government through the Hotel Corporation to appoint directors to the boards of both the joint venture company (MID) and the Mayaguana Management Company (MMC).
Under the terms of the revised heads of agreement, the FNM is allowing this safeguard to fall away. Also as a result of the cancellation of the joint venture and management agreements by the FNM a foreign owned company will now be entitled to the grant of some 4,000 acres of Crown land on Mayaguana, something the PLP would not have done. Regrettably, the scale of the project and its economic impact have been considerably reduced under the terms of the revised heads of agreement.
For the record it should be pointed out that at all material times during the negotiations with the I-Group as well as in the heads of agreement and joint venture agreement, the PLP administration ensured that sufficient Crown land remained available for the expansion of existing communities together with the creation of new communities on the island of Mayaguana. The project itself, the terms of the heads of agreement and joint venture agreement were fully discussed with and agreed upon in town meetings with the people of Mayaguana and with descendants.
The suggestion that the deal would have "people herding together in the interior" is untrue and a rather unfortunate description of the intentions of the joint venture. It is hoped that these facts dispel the misrepresentations printed in the article and that the Bahamian people now have the full benefit of the salient facts surrounding the joint venture development in Mayaguana. It is further hoped that the Bahamian people and all the residents of Mayaguana know that it is the PLP that has always championed their cause and put them first.
o George Smith is a former PLP MP for Exuma, Cabinet minister and chairman of the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas.
Turks & Caicos - On February 2nd of each year the world celebrates its wetlands. This day marks the signing of the Convention on Wetlands that took place in the Iranian City of Ramsar in 1971.
However, Wetlands Day was not celebrated until 1997. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness and appreciation of the significance of the wetlands and of their contributions to the world ecosystem.
The international theme for World Wetlands Day 2011 is "wetlands and forests - forests for water and wetlands" in celebration of the United Nations International
LOCAL Bird watchers, including members of the Grand Bahama Junior Birding Club, took part in the second annual Caribbean Waterbird Census.
The census is a region-wide waterbird and wetland monitoring effort sponsored by the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds.
The goal is to learn more about the distribution, status, and abundance of waterbirds in the Caribbean, so as to improve conservation planning and management of these birds and their delicate habitats.
Each year, a region-wide count is organised. Every participant counts at the same time during the middle of winter (when birds are most stationary) to get a "snapshot" of waterbird population numbers and habita ...
After a dirty and tough morning of pulling cattails out of the mud at a national park, Lynn Gape, deputy executive director of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), beamed at the work.
For Gape, however, it is a small victory. The thousands of cattails, a native plant to wetlands that grow up to 10 feet tall, have become invasive at the Harold and Wilson Ponds National Park, destroying it in effect.
"We have an ecosystem that is out of balance," she said on Saturday.
However, Gape will be the first to admit that Saturday's event was more about conservation education.
"We had the young men who work at Starbucks in the mud, pulling up cattails and I say to one of them, 'now you see what a national park warden does'," said Gape.
"And he looked up at me and said, 'well you got that right, I thought all wardens did was keep people out of national parks.'"
Harold and Wilson Ponds is one of 39 Important Bird Areas (IBA) in The Bahamas said Gape, so protecting the species there is very important.
The BNT, a nonprofit organization, was established in 1959 and it is mandated with the conservation of natural and historic resources of The Bahamas.
Starbucks partnered with the BNT to offer assistance at the park.
Gape, a former educator, has been a part of the BNT for over 25 years. She taught at St. Augustine's College for 10 years before moving into the private sector and then eventually volunteering for the BNT in 1985.
"I was the honorary secretary, chair of the education committee," she explained.
"I got involved in the work and there was an opening for an education officer, and in 1991, I become an employee with the national trust."
"It was wonderful to become an employee. In 1991, we embarked upon the Bahama Parrot conservation campaign with the Rare Pride organization and I worked with a wonderful colleague Monique Sweeting and Susan Larson to raise awareness about the Bahama Parrot.
"Our end goal of course was to create a national park in Abaco to protect the northern breeding grounds of the Bahama Parrot."
Gape explained that the campaign immersed her and taught here a lot about conservation education.
It was during this period that she met and worked with various regional conservational experts who taught her a lot about preserving and studying wetlands.
"I was able to take the lessons that were learned in the Rare Pride campaign that we had for the parrot and basically transfer them to other educational endeavors that the trust was doing," Gape said.
The trust also partnered with the Society for the Conservation and Study for Caribbean Birds to write a wetland resource.
The resource incorporated a lot of the ideas that the trust learned with Rare Pride, resulting in a regional wetland's resource used all over the Caribbean said Gape.
"I feel really great because we did a lot of the work here in The Bahamas," she said.
"We worked with Bahamian educators to try out the lessons and the lesson plans in the resource.
"The resource has gone into its third printing. It's been printed in Spanish, French, so it's been truly rewarding for me to work in conservation education and to be able to help provide resources for Bahamian educators.
"One of the frustrating things when I was teaching was I would want resources that were more relevant to The Bahamas and I would be able to find wetland resources that talked about wetlands in Canada but I couldn't find resources that talked about wetlands in The Bahamas."
For Gape it was a personal victory.
"For me during my career as education officer and director of education for the BNT that was always one of my goals, which was to provide resources for teachers that not only would be able to educate their students but would help them in an area where they did not feel so comfortable and also get them out in the environment," said Gape.
Over 20 years later, Gape said one of her first goals, which is to begin to have a national park in Abaco is on course to happen.
While Abaco's national park has been declared, it does not have the infrastructure to allow visitors to experience what the park has to offer.
Gape explained that the BNT is working to put together a concept plan and begin to put in the infrastructure in the Abaco National Park.
"That's going to be really rewarding for me because I got to work on getting the park declared," beamed Gape.
"We just finished our concept plan and on May 5, we are going to do a volunteer work day to begin to put in some trails and a picnic area."
One of the most interesting things about the park said Gape would be it's unique design.
"That was an area that was heavily logged, so you already have logging roads in the area," she said.
"Working with a group called Wilderness Graphics in Tallahassee, Florida, we have come up with a unique idea for having a park that you are going to be able to drive through."
It's a first for national parks she said.
"It's very exciting and I would feel very complete if we open a visitor's center in the Abaco National Park."
Anyone wishing to offer assistance to the BNT can call 393-1317.
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Two groups of concerned citizens, each working toward an end to unregulated development and protection of The Bahamas marine environment, drew one step closer today when they met at Jaws Beach.
Rev. CB Moss and the Coalition to Save Clifton met with representatives of Save The Bays, the fast-growing environmental movement partnering with organisations around The Bahamas to protect the archipelago's wetlands, waters and bays.
"We stand here today at what we believe signals the advent of a new chapter in conservation history," said Rev. CB Moss, "a chapter in which Bahamians from all walks of life are standing together to save our Bahamaland."
Save The Bays Director and Bahamas Waterkeeper Joseph Darville agreed. "We know that there was confusion at the initial introduction of our organization because the names were so similar, both coalitions with one called Protect Clifton Bay and the other Save Clifton. But the reality is that the history between us, or many of us, goes back 14 years when we first reached out to protect Clifton and its history for future generations of Bahamians and historians to study and treasure."
Environmentalist Sam Duncombe was part of the campaign 14 years ago and she was at the site today when the historic handshake took place.
RIENDS of the Environment has partnered with Dr Craig Layman and his research team from Florida International University to restore a vital tidal creek and wetland area in Abaco.
Broad Creek, located just south of Marsh Harbour near Camp Abaco has been blocked for more than 30 years after a road was constructed to build the camp.
The restoration project entailed removing a small area of the road, installing culverts to allow water flow under the traffic, and then reforming the road. The team then had to selectively remove mangroves that had encroached into the channel after road construction had taken place.
Kristin Williams, executive director Friends of the Environment, said: "Tidal cr ...
Saturday 14th February 2009 11:00 AM
World Wetlands Day is on the 2nd of Feb, the BNT will be celebrating this occasion in Grand Bahama at the Lucayan National Park with a family fun-day and to also celebrate the opening of the new bridge in the park. Contact the Bahamas National Trust at email@example.com for more information
Since the inception of the National Parks Ordinance of 1975 (and its subsequent amendments in 1992), the salinas of Grand Turk have been overlooked as
part of the Protected Area System despite their size comprising the
largest total area of salt ponds in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI)
covering approximately 200 hectares (494 acres), along with the
historical role they played when salt production was at its peak.
many years, efforts have been ongoing to conserve and protect these
salinas which are also ecologically important as wetlands serving many
functions including but not limited to flood control, providing vital
habitats for many organisms and also a source of recreation and income...