T&T Government approves plan to protect approximately 20,000 km2 of land and marine space

Port of Spain, Trinidad. June 20th, 2019Cabinet has accepted a National Protected Areas Systems Plan, proposing the establishment of close to 20,000 km2 of protected land and marine space in Trinidad and Tobago.  This is part of the Government’s initiated policy reforms aimed at preventing biodiversity loss and improving the management of protected areas (PAs), with the adoption of new PA and forest policies.  This announcement comes on the heels of an initially successful forest replanting exercise on Corpus Christi where close to 200 volunteers planted 500 seedlings in forested areas affected by recent forest fires in Chaguaramas,

The goal of the Plan is to identify areas within the national jurisdiction of Trinidad and Tobago which can enable the protection of the country’s biodiversity, to be consistent with national policies for forests, protected areas and wildlife. The new Plan proposes the establishment of 136 Protected Areas. Of these, 92 are terrestrial/freshwater (79 in Trinidad and 13 in Tobago), 40 are coastal/marine (18 in Trinidad, 22 in Tobago) and 4 are deep-seas marine areas. In total, approximately 1,933km2 (1,866km2 in Trinidad, 67km2 in Tobago) of the country’s land mass is proposed to be terrestrial/freshwater protected areas. The proposed coastal and marine protected areas approximate to 580km2 (14km2 in Trinidad and 566km2 in Tobago). The proposed open-ocean waters and deep-sea marine areas cover 15,600km2.

Some of the areas that are part of a pilot plan because of their globally important biodiversity and ecosystems include the Caroni Swamp, the Nariva Swamp and coastal zone, the Matura Forest and Coastal Zone, the Trinity Hills, the Main Ridge Forest Reserve and the North East Tobago Marine Protected Area.

The Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis, Minister of Planning and Development, whose Ministry coordinated the development of the plan highlights the input of a wide sector of forest and protected area stakeholders and a series of national consultations.  Support and guidance was received from the Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, Senator the Hon. Clarence Rambharat, and key stakeholder agencies such as the Forestry Division, the Institute of Marine Affairs, Environmental Management Authority, the Tobago House of Assembly, non-governmental organizations and local universities and research bodies throughout the progress of the Plan. The end product therefore represents the output of a collaborative effort to produce a document that is in line with current international best practices for protected natural area management.

The National Protected Areas Systems Plan is an intervention coming out of the project “Improving Forest and Protected Area Management in Trinidad and Tobago”, the implementation of which is being coordinated by the Ministry of Planning and Development and administered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO/UN) on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.    

Successful implementation of the recommendations presented in the new National Protected Area Systems Plan requires several preconditions, inclusive of which are legal establishment, financial considerations, local management plans, setting up of stakeholder management teams and assigned personnel.  This first step in acceptance of the draft System Plan is therefore a critical one in improving the way the country’s natural heritage is managed.

Improving Forest and Protected Area Management in Trinidad and Tobago is a four-year project, from 2015 to 2019 at a total cost of USD $30,510,074.00, being administered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Government.  Funding was provided by the Government, FAO/UN, the European Union and the Global Environment Fund.   

More information can be found on the Project Website:  www.protectedareastt.org.tt

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