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.
Have you ever wondered what that big white bird is called? Or are you looking for something fun and educational to keep the kids busy during the summer holidays? Look no further than the first ever Kayak Scavenger Hunt sponsored by Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) St. Maarten!
The event will be hosted on Saturday, July 22nd, from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Starting on Kimsha Beach with a small breakfast and refreshments, participants will be geared up and given a kayaking tutorial before taking off towards the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Teams will be provided with a list of plants and animals to locate as they kayak.
When the group reaches the final destination past the Causeway bridge, we will raft up to discuss our findings as we enjoy a cold drink before heading back to Kimsha Beach at a relaxed pace. The team with the most complete list and the best photos will win a prize!
The price for the event is $25 per adult and $15 for children under 16 years. This includes equipment rental, technical support, and refreshments. The funds will help EPIC to continue to provide education and conservation activities related to the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Small children need to be accompanied by a responsible adult and must bring their own life jacket. Participants don’t need to participate in the scavenger hunt and can just paddle along for fun!
Sign up NOW for this unique event, as space is limited. To sign up, please send an email to: email@example.com or call +1 (721) 524-4420. Online registration is also available. See you on Saturday, July 22nd, at Kimsha Beach in Simpson Bay (in front of Buccaneer Beach Bar)!
EPIC has been working alongside farming families in Boukan Chat, Haiti since 2011. As many of you know, the first Black-capped Petrel nest ever located was found in this village and the forests in and around the area are critical to the species. EPIC and its partners have been working hard to conserve the petrel in this area through research on the bird, youth environmental education in schools, and working directly with farmers in the village to increase incomes through the implementation of sustainable farming practices.
To farmers who work along the edges of the forest, the petrel is a well-known animal. However, to most families, the species is only a topic of folklore and many have not encountered the bird due to its secretive habits. We felt it was important to bring the bird to the people, to join together the image of the petrel and the life-sustaining forest in images that people in Boukan Chat would encounter on a daily basis.
Last Fall, EPIC and its partners from SoulCraft Allstars reached out to friends and family and made a request for both a tree nursery and funds to paint murals of petrels and their habitat in the village. This active network stepped forward and in less than a week raised the funds for both projects. We approached the families in Boukan Chat we worked with in 2016 to build community cisterns and asked if we could paint the murals on the community cisterns; those families happily agreed.
Now we just needed an artist! In stepped Jose Luis Castillo. Jose Luis has been working alongside EPIC in Haiti since 2011 as a petrel researcher and has found dozens of petrel nests in and around Boukan Chat. We knew Jose Luis had painted murals as a job in his home village of Pedernales, Dominican Republic, but when we saw his large mural at a local hotel that depicted the wildlife of the Bahoruco Mountains, we knew we had the right guy for the job.
Jose Luis came to Boukan Chat this Spring and on one of the most commonly used cisterns in the village, painted a wonderful large mural depicting flying Black-capped Petrels, nesting petrels, and the critical forest habitat. In this way, we brought the petrel to the people, sharing the beauty and majesty of the bird and forests as treasures to protect and take pride in.
EPIC has started the first phase of a study to assess the economic value of St. Maarten’s remaining wetlands. Prior to the rapid urbanization of recent decades, St. Maarten possessed at least 19 healthy ponds, of which only five remain today: Salt Pond, Fresh Pond, Little Bay Pond, Red Pond and Mullet Pond. In addition, the island has one of the largest wetlands in the West Indies, Simpson Bay Lagoon.
When the Great Salt Pond was used to harvest salt, it’s value as an economic asset was very clear. However, in recent times, wetlands such as these ponds are seen more as an area that should be developed for immediate economic gains. Yet wetland conservation offers significant economic benefits. As development and pollution continue to threaten our remaining wetlands, EPIC aims to make clear the significant role which healthy wetlands contribute not just to our environment, but also to our economy.
Wetlands are special ecosystems where land is partially or fully covered in water, making it a “wetland”. Wetlands are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world, providing us with vital services such as climate control, water purification, and storm protection. Not to mention the more tangible services such as fishing, agriculture, and recreation. These are just a few of the ways in which wetlands improve our daily lives.
Without healthy wetland habitats, we would either forgo these benefits or create (often costly) infrastructure to replace them. A powerful example of the economic benefit of wetlands comes from New York. Studies revealed that they could avoid spending USD$3-8 billion on new waste water treatment plants by investing USD$1.5 billion in the purchase of land around the reservoirs upstate. These preserved lands will purify the water supply free of charge.
In 2010, the Nature Foundation found that St. Maarten’s coral reefs contribute US$58 million a year to the country’s economy through tourism and fisheries. This ultimately lead to the creation of the Man of War Shoal Marine Park which now protects these important natural and economic resources. In a similar fashion, this study ultimately aims to shed a light onto the overlooked value of our remaining wetlands.
The first phase of this project, led by Kippy Gilders, will last a total of three months. At the end of July, a community meeting will be held for the public to learn more about this study and the importance of wetlands as well as share their knowledge, concerns, and experience on the topic.
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.
On the 1st of June, EPIC and the Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) celebrated the Green Key Award for the achievements of Holland House Beach Hotel and Princess Heights Luxury Boutique Condo Hotel.
The event, hosted at Holland House, was a celebration of sustainability on St. Maarten and conveyed the importance of preserving the tourism economy in a sustainable way. Green Key is an internationally recognized eco-label awarded to tourism and leisure establishments which meet high environmental standards.
“The Green Key program is not just a set of guidelines to follow, it is a comprehensive program that ensures a reduction of waste and energy, which not only benefits the environment but it is beneficial to the cost of our business as well. It educates our staff, it educates our management and it drives a spirit into your organization. Going green for us it’s a rewarded investment and [one] that we attempt to keep up “said Paul Boetekees, General Manager of Holland House.
Princess Heights is the ground-breaking establishment which became the island’s first Green Key Hotel. Mr. Arnaldo Phelipa, General Manager of Princess Heights, congratulated Holland House for their achievements and urged other businesses to move towards a greener and more sustainable business attitude for the benefits of the community, the environment and the business itself.
In light of recent events regarding the Paris Climate Accord, it is ever more important to recognize those corporations and citizens leading the way toward improving and protecting our environment. The island nation is solely dependent on the environment for its livelihood and all efforts must be made to reduce waste, improve environmental education and increase sustainability.
The event was well attended by many trade and tourism businesses as well as EPIC representatives Laura Bijnsdorp, Elisa Oldani and Kippy Gilders and SHTA Board Members Lorraine Talmi, Ricardo Perez and Paul Henriquez.
The partnership between the Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) and the local non-profit foundation Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) was strengthened by the signing of the collaborative agreement to promote sustainable tourism through the Blue Flag and Green Key eco-label awards.
The event was held at Holland House Beach Hotel in Philipsburg, the newest Green Key awarded site for Sint Maarten, in anticipation of the official Green Key Award ceremony and sustainability expo which acknowledges the exceptional efforts of the awardees, being in the forefront of sustainable tourism for the hotel industry.
The event, to be held in May, will also award Princess Heights Luxury Boutique Condo Hotel for its third consecutive year as a Green Key Hotel.
Both parties were excited to finalize the long-awaited agreement which highlights the dedication, support and advocacy for the Green Key and Blue Flag programs amongst tourism businesses in St. Maarten.
The Collaboration agreement was signed by Mr. Rueben J. Thompson, EPIC Executive Board Treasurer and Paul J. Henriquez, SHTA Executive Board and was witnessed by Fleur Hermanides, Executive Board member of EPIC and project manager of SXM DOET and Wyb Meijer, SHTA Executive Director.
“EPIC has been working for many years to further develop sustainable tourism for Sint Maarten and SHTA has been a key partner in that effort. We appreciate the vision and concern of SHTA in committing to promoting best practices among its members and their customers. To really stand out from the crowd, St. Maarten can offer not just the standard Caribbean sun, sand, and sea, but an environmentally-responsible experience that guests can feel proud to support, further building their ties to the island," noted the President of EPIC, Natalia Collier.
The SHTA Board Member Paul Henriquez commented “This collaboration represents the effort of the SHTA to support and promote sustainability amongst its members and to work with EPIC towards making the environment of St. Maarten a better place for the community”.
Environmental Protection in the Caribbean is the National Operator for the international Green Key award for accommodations and restaurants and international Blue Flag award for marinas, boats and beaches, which is managed globally by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).
Any business interested in learning more about applying for the award programs can visit www.epicislands.org or contact EPIC’s Eco-label Coordinator, Ms. Elisa Oldani on (721) 554-0742 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hurricane Matthew, an immense Atlantic Hurricane, barreled into Haiti with its full fury in October 2016. Winds of 150 miles per hour coupled with feet of rain wreaked havoc on the impoverished island nation, knocking buildings over, flooding farms, and leaving a path of destruction as it moved over the county.
The small village of Boukan Chat, where EPIC has been working on Black-capped Petrel conservation for the last four years, took a direct hit from a large mass of rain as the storm passed over the island. The associated flooding from the storm caused massive mud slides and high winds caused the destruction and loss of many roofs. Thankfully, no lives were lost in the village but destruction to property and farms was widespread. Almost 100% of the annual crops in the village were destroyed during the storm.
EPIC and its partners Plant with Purpose and Grupo Jaragua have been working with farmers in Boukan Chat to create farm structures which protects soil during storms. Many areas farmers had placed these soil retention systems were spared during the storm. In fact, a fair number of farmers using the soil retention bars successfully harvested crops and were able to provide for their families. This example of successful conservation farming reduces financial pressure on communities living near colonies of the endangered Black-capped Petrel, a secretive seabird which returns to its mountain burrow nest at night. Our goal is for people and petrels to thrive while living side by side, conserving essential forest nesting habitat which also prevents erosion on nearby farms.
EPIC just returned from Boukan Chat where we continued our work with farmers to protect petrel habitat. We look forward to working with additional farmers, increasing the use of soil retention systems on farms, and improving the odds for protecting petrel populations.
Additionally, we met with teachers with whom we work to educate the youth of the community. We created a blueprint EPIC’s educators will follow over the next year to continue teaching the primary school aged children about land conservation topics. A local artist created stunning murals on water cisterns, cisterns sponsored by our supporters, showing the beauty and majesty of the rarely seen petrel.
Furthermore, while in Boukan Chat, we carried out radar surveys to monitor petrel population trends and located petrel nests in the community that we will follow throughout the nesting season. The Save the Devil film team followed our work, capturing the continuing story of petrel and land conservation issues and efforts.
This season marks the seventh year EPIC has been working to conserve Black-capped Petrels on Hispaniola. Working alongside conservation partners, education experts, and villagers, we have made a substantial impact towards conserving Black-capped Petrels. The future of petrels in the Caribbean looks hopeful and we’ll continue working towards a brighter future for the wildlife and people of this region.
|Environmental Protection in the Caribbean||