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GRAND BAHAMA - A recent field trip by the Grand Bahama Birding Group to the western end of the island resulted in several "lifebirds" for members of the group.
Derek Gape, director at the Ginn development at West End, had opened up the property to the birders to survey the many ponds in the area. Among the 40 species recorded that morning, a Northern Harrier Hawk was one of the new birds to be recorded swooping low over one of the ponds!
The group then became mesmerized by a pair of rare Swallow-tailed Kites perched side by side in a Casuarina tree, allowing everybody to get excellent views for at least 15 minutes. One of the birds circled slowly over the birders, then returned to the other bird.
A large number of Royal Terns were observed along the West End shoreline and the unusual sighting of so many birds of that species was even questioned by Cornell University when the group later submitted its observations into the eBird database of that institution. Several photos taken of the terns substantiated the sightings!
To round off a wonderful morning of birding, everybody enjoyed lunch at Old Bahama Bay's restaurant on the beach. Ericka Gates presented two of her annual "Basic Birding Class" students with certificates for accomplishing birding milestones. Marian Chamberlain's life list had reached 101 species and Michael Flowers recorded 55 to date. The program is sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism and encourages residents as well as visitors to get out there and record as many birds as possible while visiting or living in The Bahamas.
If you are interested to know all 40 species recorded that morning, please check with eBird (www.ebird.org/caribbean) for submitted observations on March 15 for the Holmes Rock Wetlands and West End. eBird is a real-time, online checklist program which has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution. If you are not a member of eBird yet, just ask to be registered when you go on the site. eBird will add a new dimension to your birding experiences.
Also, we invite you to get out there, enjoy our beautiful environment, make new friends and learn about birds, just join us on our next field trip on Saturday, May 3. We will explore Grand Bahama Nature Tours' trail along Gold Rock Creek as well as Gold Rock Beach and enjoy a light picnic lunch afterwards, compliments of Grand Bahama Nature Tours. Meet at Garden of the Groves at 8 a.m.
Global Earth Day gives people a chance every year to reflect on how they can change their lifestyle choices into more sustainable and harmonious ones for the planet on which they live, but that doesn't matter unless they are honored the other 364 days of the year.
Such is the message by two Bahamian artists who are transforming communities and minds through their work and artistic efforts.
On April 22, while Tyrone Ferguson unveiled a new sculpture on the island of New Providence, Antonius Roberts took his message to Eleuthera. The pair celebrated Global Earth Day in the only way they knew how: through sharing their work that takes inspiration from its environment.
Joining his sculptures already on the grounds, Tyrone Ferguson unveiled a new installation at New Providence Community Church. For this artist, who often creates sculptures using repurposed metal and wood, sharing the sculpture and speaking during their Sunday service was a chance to inspire the NPCC community - and beyond - to treasure their surroundings.
"We can make this world and community a better place if we all just put our hands to it," he said. "God said we must use our creativity and imaginations to take care of this earth. When we intentionally put our hands to what God has provided us with, then we can experience what God has given us, we can experience healing and wellness and a closer walk with God."
Indeed part of the decision to install more of his work at NPCC ties into his overall vision to transform the community church grounds into a place where members and visitors alike can find a spiritual connection with nature.
Already NPCC employs a number of recycling programs and considers itself deeply passionate about environmental justice. Such a philosophy has gifted space for sustainable sculptures by Ferguson and fellow collaborator Antonius Roberts on the grounds, including Ferguson's new piece.
At the top of his sculpture sits a globe carried by many hands - traced by NPCC members and cut out by Ferguson - while underneath a doorway sits atop a repurposed bank vault door as a base. Ferguson hopes that the doorway creates a portal for its viewers - that by walking through it, no matter what day of the year, they focus on how to improve the earth.
"The hands hold the globe in a symbolic gesture of us participating in creating the world," he said. "But there's a disconnect here - we speak it, but are we intentionally making the world a better place, not just on Earth Day but beyond?"
"It's going to take all of our hands to do this, it's going to take commitment, time, talent and resources to do this," he continued. "Pulling up a few casuarinas on Earth Day isn't going to cut it; we want to hand off a better community to our children. We need to take it to the next level. We need to celebrate Earth Day 365 days a year."
Doing just that is fellow artist and collaborator Antonius Roberts, whose artistic practice and community building initiatives always repurpose discarded wood to make gorgeous pieces. This Sunday he too unveiled a new sculpture at the Leon Levy Reserve in Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera as part of the One Eleuthera Foundation & Nature Conservancy's celebrations this past weekend which also had the support of the government and the Bahamas National Trust. The sculpture was a male and female figure carved beautifully out of wild Tamarind wood salvaged by the Leon Levy staff after Hurricane Irene.
"I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to breathe life back into the wood," said Roberts. "It was a spontaneous piece that follows the form, spirit and grain of the wood. My thought is we are stewards of the earth and I thought God has given us domain over this earth in a biblical sense."
Indeed the figures, placed in such an environment as the breathtaking Leon Levy Preserve, create an Edenic atmosphere for visitors to ponder the beauty of nature and the need to preserve it.
The first national park on Eleuthera, the reserve not only acts as an educational resource for visitors but is also a haven for native plant species.
Adding to that environment, says Roberts, is the addition of three new benches in the space as part of his National Bench Program, which works in conjunction with the government's Job Readiness Program and Baha Mar to turn discarded wood from the invasive species of casuarinas into beautiful and practical benches.
But the important aspect of this program is not so much the sustainability of material but of the craftsmen themselves. For the National Bench Program, young men have trained under Roberts in the craft of bench making, giving them vital skills and an awareness of sustainability in their field. The three benches in Eleuthera were made by two young men in high school under the National Bench Program.
"People were able to come and not only celebrate the sculptures we did but the spirit of transformation," said Roberts. "These men were so excited by the program that they would like to set up a bench-making industry on the island of Eleuthera when they return back from college because there is a proliferation of casuarina trees there."
"So for me when we talk about preservation, the reality is we need to talk about sustainability - we need to create opportunities for our people to buy into the whole process of preservation," he continued. "I think it is important for us to work with the schools and engage young people in the process so that they can take ownership and be responsible stewards."
That's just what Roberts aims to do with the National Bench Program. He adds that he was pleasantly surprised to see that over the weekend, Baha Mar had added 15-20 of these benches - made from the discarded wood of casuarinas during the clearing for their development - to their walkway flanking natural wetlands on the new rerouted Cable Beach Strip. The move was an appropriate one given the tone of Sunday.
Rather than be varnished and perfect additions to the environment, Roberts explains that these benches are made to weather over time along with its surroundings.
"They will be properly maintained and treated, but they are meant to grey and age like driftwood so they are part of the environment and landscape instead of just being placed there - they will weather and allow nature to take charge of how they wear," he said.
Overall though, he finds the most significant aspect of the new display at Baha Mar is the work behind them by young hands. Such a practice is a promise for a better, more sustainable future in a rapidly developing world.
"I'm so proud to see these are benches made by young men," he said. "I took them out today to have a look at those, and you should see them beaming with pride. The benches just look wonderful."
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.
A cave containing artifacts stretching back hundreds of years will be incorporated into Baha Mar's new 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course.
The historic site, discovered years ago when the $2.6 billion development performed a survey of the land, rests near Lake Cunningham on the resort property. After some extensive investigations, the items in the cave have been catalogued and date back to the pre-Columbus era.
According to Laura Pinder, the environmental monitor for Baha Mar, the site will be made a "point of interest" on the golf course.
"It will be part of the golf course experience," she explained. "We'll develop interpretative materials and signage. As you walk the trail of the golf course, you'll see the signs. They'll be a buffer between the cave and the course. But it will explain the history of the cave, and what is interesting about it and how it relates to the culture of The Bahamas."
The attraction is sure to make the Jack Nicklaus course one of the more unusual golf experiences in the world.
The cave is reportedly home to fragments of tools, pottery and bone.
"We'll preserve it and ensure it's not ruined," she said. "And it becomes a feature of the golf course."
Pinder insisted, however, that guests will not be permitted inside the cave. She noted it is currently home to a colony of fruit bats, further reinforcing the importance of working around the historically significant site.
The environmental officer for Baha Mar told Guardian Business a more in-depth survey was done recently, and a team was enlisted to make note of the treasures that lie within.
Maintaining the environment has been a particular concern for the Cable Beach project since the beginning, according to executives.
Back in September of last year, Gary Larson, the director of environmental affairs, announced that Baha Mar would contribute $2 million to the creation of a wildlife reserve.
The resort back outs onto hundreds of acres of untouched wilderness and wetlands.
"When I came on board here, I was very pleased to see the company's attitude towards the environment," Larson said, who served as executive director of the Bahamas National Trust for 20 years. "It's refreshing to see them not just saying so, but doing so. Often you have to beat people over the head with environment issues. But the philosophy comes from the head."
Robert Sands, the senior vice president of administrative and external affairs, told Guardian Business that the golf course actually had to be redrawn to incorporate the reserve.
Of the 1,000 acres included under the Baha Mar banner, approximately half will be considered part of this protective ecosystem.
The vision is to create opportunities for bird watching, walking jogging and enjoying the indigenous species.
Baha Mar has considered incorporating eco-tourism into its menu of offerings once the resort is up and running at the end of 2014.
The Ministry of Works yesterday signed contracts to develop the Big Pond Park, the last remaining plot of wetlands in central New Providence, which will first require a contaminated land investigation as it was once a landfill.
Shenique Albury, an environmentalist at the ministry, said the area chosen for the initial phase one development was used as a landfill site up until the end of the 1970s and was never rehabilitated. Therefore, for the safety of the individuals who will use the park in the future, an assessment for possible contaminants has to be done.
The initial phase of the park’s development is expected to include trails, boardwalks, a children’s play area and a pi ...
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 ...
A leading environmental lawyer and consultant for Save The Bays has called for the urgent passage of an environmental protection act, saying it will not only protect a fragile and often threatened environment but could lead to new economic prosperity by unleashing a host of profitable enterprises.
Romauld Ferreira, popular TV show host and one of the Caribbean's top environmental lawyers, said legislation and regulations that protect the environment "provide governments with the ability to develop industry in a manner which is sustainable and respects the environment".
Ferreira was addressing the National Environmental Conclave, a by-invitation-only, three day workshop organized by the Ministry of the Environment in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy, one of nearly 15 Save The Bays community partners.
"Our environmental legislative framework ought to consist of primary legislation attended to by secondary legislation establishing regulatory standards for all activities which impact the environment and giving the government the flexibility to respond in a timely manner," Ferreira told participants. Without such a framework, unregulated development will continue to plague the country, with developers plowing ahead, sometimes without permits and oversight, without the public having an opportunity to comment on something that will change their very lifestyle, without retribution for felling protected trees or slashing mangroves and scouring wetlands.
Today, said Ferreira who has worked with leading international firms as an environmental attorney and consultant on several projects financed by the IDB and other international entities throughout the region, eight separate pieces of legislation are intended to deal with environmental matters. But without stiff regulations or dedicated resources, they are often ignored and compliance is far from ideal.
Passing the overriding umbrella BEPA with adequate regulations is the link in the chain that will pull the necklace together and better secure the beauty of the chain of islands, he said.
Minister of the Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett opened the conclave, expressing his appreciation for the majesty of The Bahamas, but stopping short of calling for overriding legislation to protect it.
"I have said before that the environment of our nation is its greatest blessing, so much so that we have created a world class tourism industry based on our sun, sand, and seas," said Dorsett.
"In addition to these, we are also blessed with great landscapes, beautiful marine life, blue holes, coral reefs, indigenous trees and flowering plants and much more."
That diversity, he said, sustains life and livelihoods.
"Save The Bays is grateful to The Nature Conservancy and the Ministry of the Environment for their work in arranging the conclave," said Joseph Darville, Education Officer and Clifton Waterkeeper. "When we heard how much appreciation the minister said he has for those who try to protect the beauty and diversity of the Bahamian environment and that the environment 'should be protected zealously for and by the Bahamian people' we knew the tide had begun to change. Let us now have the courage to take the next step and pass the laws to make that wish for environmental protection a reality."
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.
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