Trust holds 5 percent of lands

The Cayman Islands government denied claims that the Cayman Islands National Trust was an “evil empire,” as it was described during a recent parliamentary debate in the Legislative Assembly.  

However, the Trust does hold a significant amount of land, more than 5 percent of the land mass in the Cayman Islands, according to its recently released annual report for 2013/14.  

“Through the generosity and support of our donors, land protected by the National Trust has increased by an amazing 59 percent since 2010,” a statement from Trust accountant Clare Lumsden indicated. This includes two parcels of land in Cayman Brac the Trust acquired during the past year. 

“This brings the value of land held under protection to over $11.5 million [cost of valuation at acquisition], which represents over 5 percent of the land mass in the Cayman Islands,” the report read.  

Trust Executive Director Christina McTaggart Pineda stated earlier in the report that the organization’s “internal goal” for protected land acquisition was to reach the international standard of 10 percent protection by the year 2020.  

“The National Conservation Law has now increased the Cayman Islands’ chances of reaching the internationally accepted standard,” Ms. McTaggart Pineda said. “Crown land now has the opportunity to be protected once the [law] is brought into force.”  

The 10 percent standard refers to a United Nations recommendation established more than two decades ago at the Fourth World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas. Recommendation 16 from the conference established a 10 percent protected area of each major ecosystem type.  

The sharp increase in protected land areas acquired by the Trust has come during a time when the organization has suffered through a sustained decline in fundraising. The Trust, which receives some financial support from the Cayman Islands government, saw fundraising efforts that earned $150,000 in 2010 fall to less than $50,000 in 2012.  

That number has increased in 2013 and 2014, but has never made it back to 2010 levels, the Trust reported. The government also doubled the funding received by the National Trust during its 2013/14 budget year.  

Criticism 

The Trust has taken criticism regarding land purchases, which it makes to preserve native areas of flora and fauna.  

Last month, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller told the Legislative Assembly that the Trust, since its formation in 1987, had gone well beyond its remit in buying up land in Cayman, particularly in his less-inhabited district. 

“In the view of many of the persons that I am elected to represent … the National Trust has become the evil empire that many of us who were here in 1987 were concerned that it would become,” Mr. Miller said. “The National Trust was not intended to be a body that would go out and solicit to purchase people’s land.”  

Mr. Miller said the designation of vast tracts of land in North Side as “inalienable” not only prevented developing that property, but also precluded Caymanians from using the land for “heritage purposes,” such as farming, making thatch rope, retrieving mahogany and ironwood to build houses and boats, hunting rabbits and crabs, and the like.  

Section 18 of the National Trust Law says a person who takes or attempts to take any wildlife on Trust property, starts a fire on Trust property [except where fires are permitted], removes any artifact from any Trust property or defaces any Trust property is guilty of an offense punishable on conviction of up to $5,000 in fines and one year imprisonment.  

‘No special powers’ 

Environment Minister Wayne Panton said in the Legislative Assembly in the same debate that the National Trust Law sets out clearly the organization’s purposes and gives it no special powers – such as those of compulsory acquisition given to the government – in obtaining or purchasing private land.  

“The only limitation we have in terms of ownership of land and the ability to buy land in this country is that foreign companies have to be registered in Cayman as a foreign company in order to acquire land,” Mr. Panton said. “That has been one of the features essential to the success of Cayman.”  

“The National Trust does not have the power to take someone’s land,” Minister Panton said. “This land that the National Trust owns in the district of North Side is land which anyone, any individual, any investor could have purchased in the Cayman Islands.” 

1 COMMENT

  1. I welcome the Trust preserving these lands, but my concern is that we need to see some purpose for acquiring these lands. They need to spend some money doing something worth while that the Cayman people may enjoy the properties they have acquired; and also making sure of its upkeep.
    Or, are they just buying up the properties to say they have them, and increase capital?
    What is the use of having something and not making use of it. Money serves no purpose unless it is being spent. Board walks for instance, set up through some of the properties with label fixed to old and important trees, rocks, fauna and swamps. Then Cayman residents, tourist and visitors alike may enjoy and support the trust acquisitions. Please begin with the Mission House grounds. It’s deplorable with dirty leaf drop for visiting tourist and need some looking at including the car park which turns into a swamp at the slightest drizzle rain.

  2. Twyla I think the whole point of them holding the land is so that it doesn’t get developed and nothing is done to it, strange as that may sound. Compare our paltry 5% with Costa Rica’s 25% and they have a ways to go. Pretty much everywhere else has more land, and more of it undeveloped, I just checked the UK, they have 97% of their country as undeveloped.

  3. As the chairman of Bodden Town district committe of the National Trust, I like to explain the purpose of the Land Bank by the National Trust. The funds used to purchase these lands is raised by the volunteers who network with people to get donations from the public be able to open land from the open market that the National Trust see as examples of enviornmental sensitive areas which would be lost for ever if they were purchased by others and commerical developed.

    If the National Trust volunteers decided not to work extremely hard to raise this money and purchase these plot of land over the last 25 years then property developer purchased them instead and built on them, in another 25 years then every body who complain the NT did not its job but the difference would be it would be too late by then.

    To answer the question about the Mission House carpark, I agree it is a mess but you know what it is also used by ajoining tourist venues and other cultural events, who never donate a penny to it upkeep but expect the NT to pay for it. It is in this years plan to raise money from the public to deal with the matter, This will cost around CI 20,000 to backfill, gravel, install drainage, raised pavements and perimeter bunds to prevent all the neighbour’s perperties from dumping their rain runoff water into the car park.

    So the purpose of the National Trust is simple to preserve the Caymanian heritage for this and future generations to enjoy so that your great grandchildren can see a rabbit in the wild or see mahogany and ironwood tree growing and not just read about it in book or a musuem.

    All the NT properties are free to visit except the misson house, which only costs 6 for guided tour for adults and 3 for children – that is about the same price as a gallon of fuel. But will would need 3000 visitors to pay for the car park alone.

    However if you think the National Trust is an evil empire then just me remind you of what happened to the public beach on west bay road when you leave it the hands of other to preserve the heritage of these islands. Would you prefer that as an alternative?