NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A Bahamas Protected Areas Fund (BPAF) grant agreement was signed on Friday to aid the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) in efforts to restore marine and terrestrial protected areas on Abaco that were devastated during Hurricane Dorian.
The BNT extended gratitude to the BPAF for these much-needed funds and noted “this is a clear demonstration of the importance and value of BPAF, to provide financial resources to support the management of the Bahamas Protected Areas”.
The BNT manages six national parks throughout the Abacos, covering more than 30,000 acres of terrestrial and marine biodiversity, the majority of which are highly protected. In September 2019, Abaco and Grand Bahama were severely impacted by Hurricane Dorian. Both islands sustained unimaginable damage to park infrastructure, administrative zones, major equipment, and field and office supplies. The complete destruction of the BNT’s Marsh Harbour office also caused a major interruption to the organization’s operations on the island.
A statement by the BNT noted: “The BPAF grant will accelerate the rebound of Abaco’s ecosystems as the BNT focuses on the recovery and restoration of the island’s impacted parks and the operations required to sustain the Abaco National Parks System.
“As the organization established to essentially identify and manage the country’s National Park system, it is paramount that the BNT ensures these areas protecting vulnerable and unique ecosystems remain healthy, in pristine condition and able to bounce back after unforeseen man-made or natural events.
“As Abaco’s long road to recovery continues, restoring these national parks that attract foreign and domestic tourism will support local businesses and provide the communities with an economic boost to sustain their livelihoods. Re-establishing a presence on Abaco will also aid in supporting future work of the BNT and other partner organizations and institutions for ecosystem assessment and long-term natural resource monitoring and management.”
BNT Director of Parks Lakeshia Anderson-Rolle said: “We are elated to receive the BPAF Dorian Assessment and Recovery Grant, which will provide us with the opportunity to re-establish an operations base on Abaco.
“We are now in a position to replace assets lost in Hurricane Dorian, and our dedicated staff, some of whom were displaced, can return to actively managing and safeguarding the six incredibly important national parks on Abaco.”
The BNT noted that climate is the number-one threat to small island nations like The Bahamas, and our associated fragile biodiversity and ecosystems.
“Projected rise in sea surface temperature, sea level rise and the increase in frequency and intensity of hurricanes underpin the value of protected areas as local biodiversity hotspots for building climate resiliency,” the organization’s statement continued.
It added: “The BNT aims to promote recovery and build resilience of protected ecosystems through strengthened capacity in effective monitoring and management of national parks on Abaco and throughout The Bahamas. We look forward to a strengthened and deepened partnership with the BPAF as we continue to advance this important work.”