The National Conservation Council is seeking nominations from the public for land to be protected for conservation purposes.
Up to $6 million has been allocated from the Environmental Protection Fund in the current budget year to buy land to create the first protected zones under the National Conservation Law.
The council is accepting nominations between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31.
Christine Rose-Smyth, chairwoman of the National Conservation Council, said, “In a nutshell, the land should have strong conservation value for biodiversity. The Council will be assessing the nominations against the criteria set out in the law. Good candidates will be expected to be strong in one or more of the purposes, for example, by providing habitat for critically endangered or threatened species or being an outstanding example of representative or unique ecological systems.”
Nominations can be made for land currently in private ownership, but the council has no powers to compel owners to sell.
Ms. Rose-Smyth said anyone can make a nomination.
She added, “This is also an opportunity for owners to consider obtaining the benefit of protected status for land for which they have conservation intentions, through the mechanism of a conservation agreement.”
A conservation agreement allows for land to be protected in perpetuity without being sold to government.
Currently a small percentage of land in the Cayman Islands is protected through the National Trust.
The National Conservation Law created the framework for further protection of environmentally important land and species.
Ms. Rose-Smyth said, “If we are going to ensure the security of our biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources for the present and future generations, the Cayman Islands must raise the amount of permanently protected habitat from the current low … in terms of generally accepted standards.
“This is true, notwithstanding the extraordinary efforts of the National Trust and private individuals in the stewardship of their, often family, land.”
The allocation of $6 million from the Environmental Protection Fund to buy land caused some friction during government’s Finance Committee debate on the budget.
Though the fund was explicitly set up for that purpose, some opposition legislators argued that the money should not be allocated until land had been identified and a fee negotiated.
At the time, Ms. Rose-Smyth said, “The law’s nomination process is open and transparent and requires evaluation according to strict criteria, landowner consultation and involvement at every step and, ultimately, agreement with Cabinet. There is no possibility for compulsion in the law. If a landowner is not willing that her land be purchased by the Crown, the council is not permitted to make any recommendation.”