A small pocket of forest in Lower Valley in the district of Bodden Town is among six sites on Grand Cayman nominated for Protected Area status under Cayman’s new National Conservation Law.
According to the nomination, protection of the site will safeguard part of the only habitat on Grand Cayman of the endangered white-shouldered bat.
The National Conservation Law provides for the establishment of new protected areas and expansion of existing protected areas.
“Nominations of lands to be protected can be submitted to the National Conservation Council annually, and any purchases that are agreed are paid for using the Environmental Protection Fund,” the Department of Environment states on its website.
Contiguous landowners and the public are invited to submit written views on the Protected Area nominations to the National Conservation Council. According to the Department of Environment website, the consultation period will end on May 2. After that, the Council will consider all written submissions before deciding whether to recommend the proposal to Cabinet, or to amend or withdraw it.
The nominated area in Lower Valley consists of two areas of Crown land together with part of one privately owned parcel, a nomination, the Council has resolved to advance. According to the nomination document, if the landowner and Cabinet approve this proposal, the natural environment in this forest area will be protected and managed according to a plan to be developed under the law.
The land forms the westernmost end of a narrow band of original dry forest that extends eastward.
“[Dry forests] are classified as lowland semi-deciduous forests and are typically dominated by Red Birch (Bursera simaruba) and Cabbage Trees (Guapira discolor),” the department states.
This particular dry forest is notable for a high density of wild fig trees, which have and still may support a small population of the White-shouldered Bat, Phyllops falcatus.
“Other endangered and endemic plants are present, and the forest flora is notably diverse,” the nomination document notes.
The nomination states that protecting the bat habitat, in turn, may help lead to the recovery and maintenance of the small and fragile population currently found there, and will begin a process which may eventually lead to protection of the whole forest area, which the nomination states is a representative and to some extent unique example of Grand Cayman’s dry forest habitat.
The nomination also notes that the area represents the only remaining dry forest area in Lower Valley, which is under threat from the invasive green iguana. The green iguanas are particularly damaging to the forest’s native fig trees on which the bats rely for food.