With the recovery from Hurricane Irma underway, country St. Maarten is learning the importance of resilience – or the ability to recover from difficulties. While we proudly boast St. Maarten Strong, it is important to remember that a strong St. Maarten comes from a resilient St. Maarten. A St Maarten that is better suited to uncertainty and our ever-changing climate. This resilience starts with a healthy environment.
In the last weeks of January, with funding from the European Union’s BEST 2.0 programme and GlobalGiving, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) Foundation planted 500 native trees at two sites on St. Maarten. By doing so, EPIC aims to increase the native diversity of trees at these sites and create a healthy habitat for flora and fauna to flourish. Creating these hotspots of diversity is an essential step in increasing the resilience of the environment of St. Maarten.
In mid-2017, EPIC was joined by Dr. Ethan Freid, a botanist based in the Bahamas. With his guidance, some fourteen tree species were bought, cared for and planted. He then returned in January 2018 to assist with their planting. The trees were divided such that 350 were planted at Sentry Hill (within Rockland Estate) and 150 planted at Cay Bay (within Seaside Nature Park). Both sites represent characteristically different ecosystems that will benefit from habitat restoration and will be protected from development for years to come.
For the remainder of the project, “Students Scientists” are being recruited from schools to monitor tree survival and learn the basics of scientific data gathering and entering. While EPIC continues to restore the natural biodiversity of these sites, we invite the public to reach out and organize a visit to learn more about our work or to become a “Student Scientist” and earn community service credits.
Environment Protection of the Caribbean (EPIC) Foundation has restarted its free educational program for the new year 2018 in St. Maarten.
This means more interactive and educational presentations for school students of all ages and diverse community groups, along with field trips to put into practice the learned theory and truly understand and appreciate nature.
EPIC promotes public education and involvement in environmental restoration and protection on St. Maarten. By integrating school children and the community into environmental projects, EPIC aims to create environmental awareness, increase the knowledge about St. Maarten’s natural heritage and raise deeper understanding about current threats to the environment and the importance of solving these.
The presentations are adapted to different levels of knowledge and different age groups. During presentations, EPIC introduces games, videos and discussion sessions keeping students and participants involved and ensuring that they fully understand relevant topics concerning our natural heritage.
Schools, community groups, and businesses interested in EPIC’s presentations and field trips can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a date and time or call +1721 523 4443.
EPIC St. Maarten is seeking an intern to assist with planning the Green Key eco-label award ceremony, which will be held in May. Please see the full description below. This is a great opportunity for experience within the hospitality industry and sustainable tourism initiatives. Due to the short term of this placement, on-island applicants are preferred.
Internship Dates: 1 March 2018 – 10 June 2018
Description of Duties/Activities:
You will receive background files describing the eco-label criteria and procedures which should be reviewed. You will also have access to the internal files within the International Secretariat of these programs (via Podio work platform) for further information. Your familiarity with the criteria and site review process is crucial to understanding the Green Key eco-label.
During the internship you will:
Your office space will be at the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association, located in Philipsburg.
Transportation: The intern is responsible for own transportation. Travel expenses are reimbursable for using a private vehicle (based on recorded mileage) or bus fare.
Compensation: This is a volunteer position.
To apply: Send your CV, a cover letter, and contact information for two references to Natalia Collier, President of EPIC St. Maarten at email@example.com. Open until filled.
EPIC St. Maarten hosted a successful Sunset Kayak Fundraiser. Having taken place on the last Thursday of 2017, participants enjoyed the sunset while saying goodbye to the old year. Approximately 40 people participated and took the opportunity to paddle between recently salvaged boats and enjoy a refreshing drink while admiring one of the Simpson Bay Lagoon’s remaining mangrove tree stands. After enjoying the sunset, the Buccaneer Beach Bar provided an after-party with a fireball to warm up and a burger deal to satisfy the appetite. The funds raised support EPIC’s ongoing restoration and conservation efforts on the island.
None of this would have been possible without our sponsors, therefore we would like to reach out and thank Tri-Sport for always supporting our events, a big thank you to CC1 St. Maarten and Prime Cash & Carry for the large donation of drinks to refresh our participants. Also, a big thank you to St Maarten Sails & Canvas NV for the support boat and safety supervision. Last but not least thank you to Buccaneer Beach Bar for the organization of the after-party!
Over the last two weekends, staff, volunteers, and partners of the foundation Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) planted 300 mangrove tree seedlings on Little Key Island in the Simpson Bay Lagoon.
Earlier this year, EPIC started a restoration project of three key sites in St. Maarten. By planting native tree species, EPIC is restoring and increasing habitat for flora and fauna, thereby improving biodiversity on the island.
One of these sites is at Little Key Island on the Simpson Bay Lagoon, which is important due its potential as mangrove habitat.
With their rare ability to live in salt water, mangrove trees provide unique habitat for a large variety of animals and act as a nursery, protecting young fish before they head out to sea. Mangroves also protect shorelines from storms, filter toxins from water, and provide recreational areas (ecotourism and diving). These remarkable trees are also excellent at absorbing carbon, a crucial part of halting climate change. Due to all these qualities, several attempts to plant and restore mangroves on this island have been carried out in the past.
Research on mangrove restoration shows that one of the most damaging factors for mangrove plant survival is waves hitting young plants. The lagoon is no exception to this problem, where a large number of passing boats increase wave activity, impacting young mangrove trees.
EPIC therefore decided to reduce wave damage to mangrove seedlings by using the “encased planting method”; mangrove seedlings are planted inside PVC (plastic) tubes, which act similar to plant pots, protecting the mangroves from damaging waves. When the plants reach a certain size, and can survive on their own, the PVC tubes can be easily removed from the tree trunk without impacting the environment.
EPIC will now closely monitor the growth and survival of the mangroves at the restoration site. In addition to the project’s value to biodiversity, it also testing and defining the most effective method to restore mangrove trees for future Lagoon restorations.
EPIC would like to thank the Nature Foundation of St. Maarten for assisting with boat transport and the dedicated staff and volunteers who made this project so successful. Appreciation also to St. Maarten Sails and Canvas for helping with boats, cutting PVC, and collecting mud for planting trees. Mark Yokoyama of Les Fruits de Mer assisted with an assessment of Little Key biodiversity after Hurricane Irma. This project is made possible through the support of the BEST 2.0 Program as well as the hurricane recovery funds of EPIC and BirdsCaribbean.
As 2017 comes to a close, we look back on some of the challenges EPIC faced in the last few months, particularly the destructive hurricane season. Yet we also appreciate the staff, volunteers, partners, and donors who have made remarkable and inspiring progress possible. Nobody knows what 2018 may bring but with a network of supporters like you, we can accomplish most anything. Thank you for being a part of our community!
Read the full Quarterly Update from the Field.
Earlier this summer, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) Foundation began a project to plant native trees at three different locations around St. Maarten (Cay Bay, Sentry Hill and Little Key). Before Hurricane Irma, assessments were conducted to better understand what native plants need to be introduced at each site to increase biodiversity and steps were made to source the plants. The passage of Hurricane Irma has delayed restoration efforts. However, EPIC is now determined to resume the project and plant native trees that are needed now more than ever!
Although the main action of the project is to introduce native trees and increase biodiversity, the focus is on education. A week before the passing of Irma, EPIC reached out to schools to introduce a series of environmental presentations and excursions regarding the importance of biodiversity; many schools had shown great interest. With numerous schools resuming classes, EPIC is offering these activities again. The presentations will also provide an update on the status of the tree planting and can be combined with hikes through the restoration sites and other natural areas.
EPIC offers a variety of presentations and hikes free of charge, suitable for people of all ages including members of schools, churches, community groups or business teams. EPIC is also looking for a group of dedicated volunteers to be involved in a citizen-science portion of the project that involves the planting and maintenance of the new trees. This would be ideal for a school group that can dedicate themselves to visit the sites once a week or every other week. This can also be used towards community service hours. To sign up as an EPIC volunteer, surf over to: https://epicislands.charityproud.org/VolunteerRegistration/Index/78.
This project, “Restoration of Key Biodiversity Areas of St. Maarten”, is supported by the BEST 2.0 Programme funded by the European Union. For more information or to get involved and organize a presentation/hike, please contact EPIC’s Project Coordinator, Kippy Gilders, at +1 (721) 524-4420 or kippy at epicislands dot org.
Volunteers are needed to monitor plant survival on a regular basis from October 2017 to February 2018. With support from the European funding program, BEST 2.0, EPIC will be restoring the biodiversity of three key areas on St. Maarten. Online sign-ups are now available.
Biodiversity is the variety of life at a specific location. By reintroducing diverse native tree species, we aim to increase plant diversity to attract a wider range of animals to the sites. By increasing biodiversity, we increase the natural resilience of an area. The restoration sites are located at Cay Bay, Sentry Hill, and Little Key in the Simpson Bay Lagoon.
We are currently working on identifying and sourcing native plant species which will be planted at the sites in November 2017. Prior to this, in October 2017, volunteers will be trained about the importance of native biodiversity, the identification of native species, and how to monitor and care for the health of tree saplings. From November 2017 to February 2017, volunteers will be recruited to help with weekly plant monitoring and maintenance. Initially, the plants will be monitored on a twice weekly basis. This will decrease to once weekly and then to once every other week as the plants become adapted to their new environment. Registered volunteers can sign up for workshops and/or to help on scheduled monitoring days .
This is ideal for person interested in learning about botany, restoration ecology, and conservation issues... or for those who simply want to help a good cause! Drinks and snacks will be provided to keep our volunteers happy and hydrated! ** Stay tuned as more opportunities and activities are added!
** Overview of Activities: July/August: Conduct plant and animal assessments, source native plants. September: Clear sites and prepare for planting. October: Train citizen-science volunteers. November: Plant native species. Start volunteer monitoring. December: Volunteers monitor plants. January: Volunteers monitor plants. February: Volunteers monitor plants. End February: Final plant monitoring and conclusion of success/survival.
Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) Foundation has hit the ground running on a new project to restore keys areas of biodiversity on St. Maarten. With funding from the European Union’s (E.U.) BEST 2.0 program, EPIC aims to restore areas within three characteristically different sites located at: Rainforest Adventures in St. Peters, Seaside Nature Park in Cay Bay and Little Key in the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Along with restoration, the project will also support education and outreach activities, including presentations and field trips to the restoration sites focused around the importance of biodiversity. EPIC’s Project Coordinator, Kippy Gilders, will oversee the project's activities.
Biodiversity can be defined as the variety of life that is found in a particular area. The European overseas regions and territories host over 70% of the E.U.’s biodiversity. Despite the importance of these areas, they are highly vulnerable to a number of threats such as pollution and development. The three restoration sites represent ecologically important areas on St. Maarten that have become degraded by past human activities. Years of agriculture have stripped the sites at Rainforest Adventures and Seaside Nature Park of their original forest composition and this project aims to restore some of what was lost. Meanwhile, mangrove propagules will be planted at Little Key. Restored sites will offer valuable habitat for reptiles, fish, birds, insects and spiders.
The first task of the project has been to conduct baseline assessments of the plant structure at each site. The assessment was conducted by Dr. Ethan Freid, the Chief Botanist at the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve on Eleuthera, and will be used to decide which plants should be introduced at each site. Mark Yokoyama of Les Fruits des Mer conducted the reptile, amphibian, and invertebrate assessment. This assessment describes those animals present on the sites before restoration. Then at the end of the project, the same assessments can be repeated to scientifically conclude that the sites have become more biodiverse as a result of the project.
As the project continues, EPIC will reach out to schools, community groups, government departments, and businesses to promote habitat restoration and conservation. The value of biodiversity will be revealed through presentations, activities, field trips, and volunteerism. Citizen-scientists will help monitor plant growth and health. Planting of the tree saplings will occur in November of this year to be followed by a nature trail within the restoration area. With a clearly marked path and informational signs, this will be the first nature trail of its kind on St. Maarten!
On Thursday, July 27th, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at St. Maarten's Philipsburg Jubilee Library, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) will be hosting a community meeting to discuss the results of the first phase of a study to assess the economic value of our remaining wetlands. The meeting also aims to get feedback from the public about how things used to be, how the changes have affected life on St. Maarten and what people think is important about our remaining wetlands.
The wetlands of St. Maarten take the shape of ponds, lagoons, mangroves and coral reefs. Development in the last few decades has resulted in an extreme loss of our wetland areas and a decrease in the size of those that remain. But what does that mean for us? Surely removing mangroves and filling in ponds and lagoons to create more land for development is good for our economy? Simply put, it is not that simple.
Our environment, and especially our wetlands, provide us with a number of benefits which contribute to our daily quality of life. By destroying these environments, we are doing away with those natural benefits which will eventually lead to large costs on our economy in the form of natural disaster damage and health care services, to name just two.
Attend this meeting to discuss the economic importance of our wetlands, the changes which they have undergone and how we can work to protect them in the future. This meeting is open admission to the general public and basic refreshments will be provided. The Philipsburg Jubilee Library has generously donated the use of their hall for this meeting.
This project, “Economic Valuation of St. Maarten's Remaining Wetlands - Phase I”, is made possible thanks to the financial support of the Prince Bernhard Cultural Funds Caribbean. For more information, contact EPIC.
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