BNT’s Statement on Destruction of Pine Forests on New Providence
May 30th, 2022, Nassau, The Bahamas
The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) has taken note of several instances of pine forest destruction on the island of New Providence lately.
The BNT strongly condemns these recent actions and hopes that proper investigation and action be taken to bring these matters to a halt and to identify the people or groups responsible. Pine forests are one of the most important terrestrial habitats in The Bahamas. The cutting down of such extensive acres of pine forests is considered deforestation, and deforestation can significantly affect the environment and our lives.
Deforestation destroys ecosystems that are vital to wildlife and humans alike. Healthy pine forests are home to some of the Bahamas’ most iconic wild animals, from endangered, endemic birds to endangered reptiles, along with hundreds of species of plants. But the importance of forests doesn’t stop at biodiversity. Forests absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, serving as a much-needed buffer against climate change. When these trees are cut down, this Co2 is released back into the atmosphere.
Deforestation also causes soil erosion and promotes flooding. Trees help the land retain water and topsoil, which provides the rich nutrients to sustain additional forest life. When forests are cut down, the soil erodes and washes away, leaving barren land that is more susceptible to flooding, especially in low-lying and coastal areas, which include the majority of Bahamian communities.
Pine trees are protected in The Bahamas under the “2021 Declaration of Protected Trees Order” and are referenced in the “2010 Forestry Act” and the “Conservation and Protection of the Physical Landscape of The Bahamas” Act. These acts state, that “any person hoping to harvest or cut down a protected tree shall first apply for a permit from the Director of Forestry.” The law further states “every person who commits an offense against these regulations is liable to a fine and/or imprisonment.”
Furthermore, as stated in the “2019 Environmental Planning and Protection Act”, any land clearing activities require permission and a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) from the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP). Depending on the purpose of the project you may also need additional permits. The Act states that anyone who commences a project without first receiving a CEC from DEPP is liable to a fine or imprisonment.
We understand that in many instances, pine trees are being cut down/used to make coal. This is a horrid act and should cease immediately. Under no circumstance should Bahamian pine trees be destroyed by anyone for this use. There are invasive casuarina trees that are spreading rapidly across Bahamian islands. If coal production is to be considered an industry, invasive casuarina trees should be considered, not native Bahamian pine.
The BNT also understands that there are other reasons why pine trees are being removed such as mining, and development. Regardless of the reason, the BNT condemns any unregulated, illegal destruction of pine forests in The Bahamas. Regardless of the motivations to clear or convert these forests, the end result is the same: the destruction of an ecosystem that once played a vital role in protecting our country and our planet.
Along with pine trees, many other species of protected plants are being destroyed when these pine forests are being cleared.
The BNT is not against the use of natural resources but believes it must be done in a sustainable, legal and regulated manner. There are rules and regulations that guide the sustainable use of our resources and The BNT encourages everyone interested in clearing or using land for any reason, to apply through proper legal channels and follow proper protocols and procedures.
While The BNT is a legislated environmental advisor to the Government of The Bahamas, we are not a regulatory agency. BNT does not enforce laws or regulations outside of national parks but works closely with the Forestry Department and the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection in support of their efforts.
The BNT recommends increasing the capacity of regulatory government agencies to support the effective enforcement of environmental regulations. This will help to ensure that when these matters do arise, they can be addressed in a timely manner.
The BNT reminds all Bahamians, and people living in The Bahamas, that pine forests are extremely valuable habitats and their use should be along properly managed guidelines, using sustainable principles to ensure their long term viability.
Laws referencing Pine Trees, and land clearings in The Bahamas:
Declaration of Protected Trees Order, 2021
Department of Environmental Planning and Protection Act, 2019
Conservation of the Protection of the Physical Landscape of The Bahamas
Media Contact: Leah Carr | firstname.lastname@example.org | (242) 429-7902
About the BNT:
The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) was created by an Act of Parliament in 1959 to build and manage the national park system of The Bahamas. Possibly the only non-governmental organization in the world charged with such a responsibility, the BNT works daily to conserve and protect the natural resources of The Bahamas through stewardship and education for present and future generations. There are currently 32 National Parks managed by the BNT with more than 2 million acres of marine and terrestrial areas protected.