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Five National Parks Established in San Salvador

It was a momentous occasion for the San Salvador Living Jewels Foundation, the people of San Salvador and The Bahamas National Trust, as they gathered on Almond Tree Park for the public announcement of five new National Parks for San Salvador.

After working with the government and with support from the Gerace Research Centre, the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), and the Nature Conservancy for 10 years, the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) is pleased to announce that the government has formalized the San Salvador National Parks, to be managed by the BNT, as the latest additions to the Bahamas’ National Park System.

Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis officially declared the national parks’ designation, along with Kenred Dorsett, minister of the environment and housing, and local government officials, in a ceremony recently held in San Salvador. The new parks encompass some 21,000 acres of pristine land and seascapes.

“This island jewel, in large part, remains unspoiled by development and unchanged by time,” said Davis, who is also the Member of Parliament for San Salvador, Cat Island and Rum Cay. “Even today, we experience the amazing beauty of this land, a mere five miles wide by 10 miles long, which is surrounded by some of the most prolific and diverse environments of the Caribbean.”

During his address he noted, “It has been a long time coming, but today, we are here, and today, we celebrate! We are happy to acknowledge and thank the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for its grant funding, which advanced the park designations and management plan development. As Member of Parliament, it has been my pleasure to observe, encourage, and participate in collaborative ventures with the residents of San Salvador to bring keen awareness to the importance of preserving the exceptional natural beauty through a National Park System.”

The five new national parks in San Salvador include:

• Graham’s Harbour Iguana and Seabird National Park – is internationally recognized as a Key Biodiversity Area, and will protect iguanas, the highest diversity of seabirds in The Bahamas, in addition to healthy reef systems and sea grass beds.

• West Coast Marine Park –will protect an extensive coral reef system, including a spectacular coral wall and vertical drop to more than 13,000 ft, popular dive sites on San Salvador, the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, tropicbirds, shearwaters and a migratory route for humpback whales.

• Pigeon Creek & Snow Bay National Park –will protect the only tidal creek on San Salvador, Pigeon Creek, and an indispensable nursery area to support fisheries stocks.

• Southern Great Lake National Park – also recognized internationally as a Key Biodiversity Area, will protect an extensive mangrove system, nesting seabirds, and another population of the San Salvador rock iguana, and:

• Green’s Bay National Park – which will protect sea grass beds, and a major iguana population.

“We have been working with the San Salvador Living Jewels Foundation since 2005, on this effort to see these national parks established on San Salvador,” said Eric Carey, BNT executive director, who gave remarks at the ceremony. “We are especially pleased with the tremendous amount expressed and documented community support for these parks. We are thrilled to see the results of all of our joint efforts, including that of other NGOs come to fruition through this momentous declaration by the government.”

The BNT has already initiated the development of a management plan for these national parks.
Based on the continued and further consultations to take place with the communities and scientists, this process will be advanced with the eventual zoning of these areas for multiple uses.

With the funding provided by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, The San Salvador National Parks Project was led for the past several years by Lakeshia Anderson, BNT’s Grand Bahama Parks Manager and Parks Planner.

“It has been a decade-long journey, with an extensive list of people and organizations to be recognized for their profound contributions to this success story,” said Anderson. “I am heartened to be a part of such a celebration and look forward to continuing efforts to manage these unique places that are now part of The Bahamas National Park System.”
BNT now looks forward with great anticipation, to the declaration of other new national parks and protected areas by the government.

Minister Dorsett is leading a government initiative to declare additional protected areas in the coming weeks and months as part of The Bahamas’ leadership in the Caribbean Challenge, in which The Bahamas has committed to protecting at least 20 per cent of the near shore environment by the year 2020.

San Salvador’s’ new national parks designation is the first of what we hope will be many such celebrations.
Officially declaring the designation of the new national parks, the deputy prime minster concluded his comments by saying, “I am privileged to add San Salvador National Park System to The Bahamas’ national park count. Ours is an exceptional record. We are now at number 32 (parks) and gaining toward our goal of protecting 20 per cent of our near shore and marine environment by 2020. We can and must do it. Yes, we can!”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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