2017 Highlights

Bringing Conservation into Development Decision-Making

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Helping governments and industries to factor biodiversity-relevant data into development decision-making is an important component of the CEPF approach. Our strategies support grantees’ work with government and the private sector to establish policies that incorporate conservation concerns into project planning.

Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot

In Bolivia, the forests of the Apolobamba, Madidi, and Pilon Lajas protected areas are threatened by the presence of numerous gold mines, some authorized by the Bolivian government, and some illegal. The mines represent an important source of economic output, but there are uncertainties regarding mining rights and difficulties in enforcing regulations, in particular because of the remote location and sprawling geography involved. The result has been significant destruction to the landscape, water and biodiversity.

Included in the areas affected by mining are high-mountain forests of evergreen Polylepis trees, which have already been drastically reduced by deforestation. Bird species such as the Critically Endangered royal cinclodes (Cinclodes aricomae) rely on these forests, which also are important for water management due to their ability to store large amounts of water and release it during dry season.

In response, CEPF funded a project to establish a baseline count of mining operations, monitor legal and illegal mining activity, train stakeholders to improve awareness of mining activity, and ensure that those miners operating legally within the protected areas know how to improve their practices to reduce their environmental impact.

The baseline study was an important first step. “Before the project started, authorities didn’t have a clear idea of how many mining cooperatives were in operation,” said Oscar Loayza, project director with CEPF grantee the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). “Estimates put the number at 30 to 50, but our baseline study determined there were closer to 200.”

With that knowledge, authorities are working to register all legal mining co-ops and identify their illegal counterparts in the service of better enforcement.

WCS also made contact with Alianza por una Minería Responsable (Colombia), Fundación MEDMIN (Bolivia) and the Better Gold Initiative (Switzerland). Together, these organizations oversee the Fairmined and Fairtrade gold certifications, which support price premiums for gold that meets specific environmental and other criteria. They are now working with miners to help them improve their practices toward a possible future certification. WCS also is working with a legal mining cooperative on a pilot project to integrate environmental best practices into mining.

“CEPF funding has made all of this work possible,” Loayza said. “The training of more than 650 people, the baseline [study], and reporting for monitoring programs in protected areas.”

The resulting improved understanding of environmental issues related to mining and the potential financial incentives for adhering to sustainable mining practices lay a foundation for better management and community engagement.

The resulting improved understanding of environmental issues related to mining and the potential financial incentives for adhering to sustainable mining practices lay a foundation for better management and community engagement.

Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot

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In Beijing, on August 22, 2013, Jamaica’s minister of land, water, environment and climate change, the Hon. Robert Pickersgill, stated that the Goat Islands were “under very serious consideration” as the site for a planned transshipment port to be built by the Chinese state-owned China Harbour Engineering Company at a cost of US$1.5 billion. At the time, some Jamaicans considered it an important step toward creating jobs and establishing the nation as a key player in the global logistics sector.

The Goat Islands, however, are at the heart of the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA), site of the largest mangrove system in Jamaica and a large nursery for fish and shellfish. The PBPA also encompasses 20,978 hectares of dry limestone forests and 8,287 hectares of wetlands, not to mention the primary habitat for many vulnerable and endemic species, including the Critically Endangered Jamaican iguana (Cyclura collei).

CEPF grantees the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) and the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), along with stakeholders of the PBPA, mobilized to launch a “Save Goat Islands” campaign—changing the minds of government decision-makers and the fate of the islands. The central feature of this campaign was a coordinated outreach effort consisting of professional lectures, presentations, community meetings and seminars.

C-CAM, the organization responsible for management of the protected areas since 2003, continued to co-manage with stakeholders such as the government, community groups, fishers and donors, and to improve development planning in light of the proposed port. The organization engaged the Conservation Strategy Fund to conduct an economic comparison of alternative sites for the port and study environmental impacts. In the end, the study determined that an equivalent facility at an alternative site would cost US$200 million less than the Goat Islands plan, while causing far less environmental damage.

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“Building [on the proposed alternative site of Maccary Bay] poses little risk to endangered species and threatens a much smaller area of important ecosystems,” said Ingrid Parchment, executive director of C-CAM. “Conversely, economic losses at Goat Islands in terms of lost tourism potential and contribution to fisheries productivity are estimated to be three times higher.”

The prime minister announced in November 2016 that the port would not be built at the Goat Islands site due to the potential environmental damage. One year later, the Urban Development Corporation announced that it would establish the Goat Islands as a wildlife sanctuary for endemic and endangered species—a direct result and distinct win for JET, C-CAM and their partners, as well as the vulnerable species that call the islands home.

Photo Credits

Two miners outside a shed used for handling hazardous materials at the site of a legal mine in Apolobamba National Park, Bolivia. © Conservation International/photo by Michele Zador
Jamaican iguana. © Robin Moore/GWC
Goat Islands, Jamaica. © Jamaica Environment Trust/Jeremy Francis