Conservation council seeks $10 million to protect land

Tarpon Lake in Little Cayman is one of 10 sites earmarked for extra protection by the National Conservation Council. - Photo: Jenny Gabruch

The National Conservation Council is seeking $10 million in new funding to help buy environmentally significant land to protect from development and other threats.

The council approved 10 new nominations for pieces of land to be designated as terrestrial protected areas under the National Conservation Law at its meeting on Wednesday.

Those will now go to Cabinet for approval, along with a request for funding from the Environmental Protection Fund to help buy some of the parcels currently in private ownership.

The parcels include a two-acre section of the Lower Valley Forest, part of the Central Mangrove Wetlands and the Western Mangrove Cays in Grand Cayman, Tarpon Lake in Little Cayman, and an expansion to the Eastern Lighthouse Park in Cayman Brac.

The nominated parcels have been through a public consultation process and were rubber stamped by the conservation council on Wednesday. Cabinet will make the final call.

Most of the parcels attracted widespread support from the public, though the parcel in Lower Valley was opposed by some neighboring residents, who were concerned it would impact their development rights.

Fred Burton, the DoE’s terrestrial resources officer, said those rights would not be curtailed unless development was proposed that had a direct negative impact on the protected area itself.

Council chair McFarlane Conolly questioned whether it was worth proceeding with the application, given the public concerns. He said the council had a negative image in some sections of the public and questioned whether the piece of land was worth pursuing if it added to that perception.

Ultimately, the council voted to proceed with the nomination and leave the final decision to Cabinet.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr. Burton said the protected area was a small but valuable piece of the Lower Valley Forest. He said the law only enabled the council to negotiate with landowners who wanted to sell or enter agreements to protect the land.

While the council might like to protect wider swathes of forest and mangrove, he said the law enabled it to pursue a kind of jigsaw approach to protecting environmentally important land, while respecting the rights of property owners.

The nominations now go to Cabinet for approval and a request for funding is expected to go to the Legislative Assembly at the next session.

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