Evaluating properties in Eleuthera for market-based conservation
Kinship Fellows Watershed and Coastal Resiliency Affinity Group
Kinship Fellows help local community transform conservation sites on Eleuthera, Bahamas.
Eleuthera originates from the Greek word “eleutheros,” or “freedom.” Located in the Bahamian outer islands, Eleuthera is a long, thin island in the shape of a fishhook. Over 100 miles long and, in most places, less than a mile wide, it abounds in sandy beaches and mangrove-filled coves that have liberated many an urban resident from the hustle and bustle of stateside life. From a developer’s standpoint, Eleuthera is a gold mine with pink sand beaches and its proximity to U.S. markets.
Until the early 1980s, Eleuthera (particularly the southern coast of the island), was a chic getaway, drawing scores of high-end tourists, mostly from northeast America, to ritzy all-inclusive resorts with deep-water marinas and golf courses that would rival Pebble Beach. But Eleuthera’s heyday was short lived. In 1973, when the Bahamas became independent, changes in foreign-ownership policy resulted in large resorts and agricultural businesses being abandoned or compelled to be sold to government-favored Bahamian interests. When Hurricane Floyd struck in 1999, even Club Med’s owners had to shut its doors. Eleutherans waited for a promised rebuilding phase that never came. Jobs disappeared all over the island and many Eleutherans left for Nassau. The “little island that could” became a poster child for unsustainable tourism products in the outer islands, while Nassau fairly exploded with successful developments, gobbling up government resources, interest and the nation’s young and ambitious youth.
How could something so promising come crashing down so fast? Why was there no regulation in place to prevent such a calamity of bad investments and poor management? How can tourism thrive in a remote, windswept island like Aruba and not in Eleuthera with its perfect climate, world class beaches and marine environment?
These were questions that the Kinship Conservation Fellows Watershed and Coastal Resiliency Affinity Group wanted to answer. In April 2013, they organized an expedition to Eleuthera to evaluate two properties for market-based conservation opportunities.
The project convened a team of nine conservationists from three countries to facilitate an “immersion”—testing the idea that a hand-picked group of diverse conservation specialists could, with a minimum of pre-project professional collaboration, assemble onsite, rapidly assess relevant physical, socio-economic and market conditions in the project areas, and generate realistic and actionable conservation project ideas.
Located on the same island only 50 miles apart, the two sites are a study in contrast: the 4,000 acre Cape Eleuthera site has been extensively altered by decades-old development that includes a now defunct golf course, and marina. It is bordered by the deep Atlantic Ocean on one side, and the shallow and flat Caribbean Sea on the other. The site is 30 miles from the nearest settlement.
Learn more about the findings at Cape Eleuthera:
By contrast, the Turtle Lake site is much smaller at 68 acres and is within a short drive of the government seat of Governor’s Harbor and the airport. Despite their differences, each site represents a potential new approach to future land use and monetization of natural resources in a manner that enhances and preserves natural amenities rather than degrading them.
About the Watershed and Coastal Resiliency Affinity Group
Kinship Fellows Regional Chapters and Affinity Groups allow Fellows to continue to connect and collaborate on conservation initiatives in order to further their learning, broaden their networks and increase their opportunities to make conservation impact.
This affinity group focuses on watershed and marine coastal conservation issues related to freshwater, estuarine and marine areas along the land-water interface. The group works to enhance communication among participating Fellows regarding best available science, career and funding opportunities and collaboration on conservation projects and more formal working relationships. They prioritize research and conservation projects that assess or jointly enhance ecological and economic health, primarily within small and developing communities.