The cliff faces of Cayman Brac have been nominated to be protected areas under the National Conservation Law.
The cliffs’ “striking and natural visual appeal is matched by an astonishing diversity of natural life,” according to the nomination submitted to Cabinet by the National Conservation Council.
The proposal relates to the “vertical and near vertical cliff faces” adjoining land owned by the National Trust and the sea cliffs around the eastern end of the island, owned by the Crown.
The cliffs are home to diverse bird and bat life and also hold historic and scientific value because of fossil and sub-fossil bones found in undisturbed caves in the cliff face.
The nomination states, “Falcons, Kestrels and Merlin cruise the cliff edges along with soaring Frigate birds. Brown Boobies nest mainly on the cliff edges, while Tropic birds (“Boatswain Birds”) nest in cavities on the cliff face. Barn Owls den in caves in the cliffs, as do colonies of several species of bats.”
There are also unique shrubs and cacti on the cliff tops, and rock iguanas use them to roam between coastal platforms and the top of the bluff.
“While the main appeal of the cliffs is visual, appealing to photographers and artists as well as the general public, they also support some specific activities. Rock climbing routes have been established towards the east end of the island, where the cliffs are highest,” the proposal notes.
Two other areas on the Brac, Hemmington Forest and East Lighthouse Park, have also been nominated for protection.
The bulk of Hemmington Forest, described as among “Cayman Brac’s least disturbed, ancient dry forest ecosystems,” is privately owned, but the nomination notes that landowners have indicated that protecting the area is “potentially viable” depending on negotiations.
The nomination states, “Protection of the Hemmington Forest will ensure the culturally and historically significant Hemmington Road trail remains a nature tourism asset, as well as a recreational asset to residents of Cayman Brac, and will safeguard the remarkable biodiversity of this forest community which is so characteristic of the island.”
Protecting East Lighthouse Park is complicated by the fact that the land is privately owned and is adjacent to a goat farm. One of the landowners has indicated a willingness to sell and the current nomination refers to that one parcel.
The nomination states, “A viable protected area for the eastern bluff-top landscape of Cayman Brac will require more land than this parcel alone. Acquisition of land for protection under the NCL can only be voluntary, and while one neighboring landowner is considering their position at the time of this proposal, it may be some time before all options are explored.”
It states that the area is important to safeguard key habitats for a range of endangered, threatened, endemic and migrant species, including Sister Islands rock iguanas. The area, with spectacular views of the cliffs and featuring numerous trails, also attracts hikers and nature tourists.
The goat farm is highlighted as a potential management problem since escaped goats forming a feral population could be extremely damaging to the area and Cayman Brac generally.