Natural Resource Management in the Turks and Caicos Islands

We have now completed our fourth piece of work on the management of the natural resources of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) in the Caribbean – delivering a comprehensive profiling of the natural resource assets of the islands, together with a re-assessment and validation of the country’s extensive Protected Area System. This is being used to better inform a wide range of stakeholders – not just commercial businesses and government departments, but also hardened environmentalists, interested visitors, teachers and school children, and community groups.

We hope that in part as a result of our work 2007 has been declared the “Year of the Environment” on TCI, incorporating an extensive programme of events and projects, many directed at the tourism businesses that depend so much on the beauty of the country’s environment, and also at the islands’ children who we expect to hold us to our responsibilities to look after their heritage. The underlying tenor of the programme is to promote many of the recommendations made on our report. We are also glad to report, again hopefully helped along by our work, that the government has handed over a range of assets on North and Middle Caicos, most of which are within the Protected Area System, to the TCI National Trust ( see UKOTC Forum News issue 30). This act places these assets into the national heritage in such a way that they cannot at a later stage be re-designated for private development – again, another recommendation arising from our work.

The significance of this work should not be under-estimated, as the same conundrums face economic development and physical planning authorities across the globe – how to balance national economic development ambitions, the wish to attract more visitor and tourism spend, and calls for the release of more building land, with the responsible management of a country’s natural heritage and resources. TCI, like so many locations around the globe, faces the real dilemmas of how to support a vibrant and diverse economy and deliver high standards of living whilst also actively managing and protecting the environment. None of us has to think too hard of instances where economic and commercial interests seem to have won out over conservation interests – they are easy to identify on our own doorsteps. So we shouldn’t be too ready to point the finger at others when we struggle to achieve this balance closer to home. And it’s great to see a small island country actively working to try and inform its decision-makers of the value of its environment, and just how expensive indiscriminate damage to the environment can be.