Learning to Categorize Protected Areas in the Bahamas

30 July 2014 | Article

From 24 to 26 June, technical personnel from different environmental organizations related to protected areas such are The Bahamas National Trust, The Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology Commission, The Nature Conservancy, The Forestry Division and Clifton Heritage participated in the workshop “Protected Areas Management Categories Analysis for the Bahamas”, held by the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management Programme (BIOPAMA). The collaboration to conduct a review of the Bahamas protected areas management categories started earlier this year, with a stakeholders inception meeting.

With the help of a historical review of the creation of protected areas and a preliminary analysis of the legislation, during this second workshop, participants were able to assign an IUCN category to each protected area and debate whether that assignment was adequate or not. They were also able to identify and define the financial, legal, institutional and technical limitations that would impact on the overall effectiveness of the management classifications being proposed.

“This process is important for the future management of protected areas because the landscape in which protected areas are being developed and managed is changing. There is a need to be proactive in providing experiences and explanations and providing criteria on the importance of these protected areas, how they relate to each other one on one and as a system,” says Jose Courrau, IUCN Senior Officer of Protected Areas.

The concept of protected areas has been changing over the years in the Bahamas, moving from the creation of “national parks” and protecting areas for nature and biodiversity conservation to considering the protection of sites for heritage and cultural reasons. The impact of this is multiple sites each with specific preservation goals/objectives and needing customized management strategies and associated resources. The Bahamas National Trust (BNT), having responsibility for 27 national parks, recognized these management challenges and identified the application of a standardized classification system as a potential mechanism to help address the management and resource challenges associated with overseeing so many protected areas.

IUCN, through its publication “Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories” has provided the tool and the knowledge on how to apply these categories.

Eric Carey, BNT’s Executive Director, hopes that the comprehensive review process of the management categories will be seen as a “tool which gives clarity to understanding assigning a particular value, concept, feeling to a space”. From the two workshops held so far, the BNT and their partner PA agencies have a better understanding and appreciation for each category and how they relate to the PAs in the Bahamas.

This review process being undertaken by the Bahamas is an important part of BIOPAMA’s capacity building effort to strengthen governance and management frameworks for the region’s protected areas.
The final workshop is scheduled for early September and will provide an opportunity for other countries to learn first-hand from the Bahamas experience.