National park status for Mount Scenery Nature Park

Photo: Minister Carola Schouten (right) signed the Dutch Government certificate officially granting the Mount Scenery Nature Park national park status in the presence of Island Governor Jonathan Johnson (left) and Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) Executive Director Kai Wulf (standing).

The Bottom, Saba-The Mount Scenery Nature Park has acquired the national park status on a regional, national and international level. Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality Carola Schouten signed the official document at the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) on Monday, September 2, in the presence of Island Governor Jonathan Johnson. The Minister said in a short address that she was very happy to comply with the request of the Public Entity Saba to grant the national park status to the Mount Scenery Nature Park. “I am pleased to present you with a certificate confirming the Mount Scenery Nature Park as a national park of the Caribbean Netherlands,” she said. The Mount Scenery Nature park will also be included in the list of national parks in the new Nature Policy Plan that the Minister will have ready at the end of this year. The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) will be looking at the financial component together with the Public Entity Saba and the SCF.

The Minister also submitted the request for national park status to the Protocol for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW Protocol) which is part of the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region, also known as the Cartagena Convention. The Minister announced that the Mount Scenery Nature Park will be put on the list of protected areas of regional importance. She explained that acquiring the national park status involved a procedure whereby a number of requirements and standards have to be met. The terrestrial nature park, established by Island Ordinance in September 2018, covers some 25 per cent of Saba and measures about 350 hectares. It consists of dry tropical forest, tropical rain forest and cloud forest with a wide variety of orchids and ferns. The park includes the most pristine areas and is regarded as the most bio-diverse part of the island.

Commissioner Rolando Wilson, who has Environmental Affairs in his portfolio, said he was very content with the granting of the national park status. “This is an important step to get to an effective managed national park. The Mount Scenery Nature Park Management Plan has already been drafted and is ready to be implemented,” he said. The Minister shared the good news of her decision to grant the national park status to the Mt. Scenery Nature Park at the end of a presentation by SCF Executive Director Kai Wulf and Saba Bank Manager Ayumi Kuramae. Wulf and Kuramae spoke about the work of the SCF, the protection of the Saba Bank and the Saba Marine Park, and the many challenges that the organization faces in terms of climate change, threats to the coral reefs, invasive species, roaming goats, scarce financial resources and too little human capacity.

The national park status will hopefully serve as a boost to the good work that the SCF has been doing, said Minister Schouten. “It is a recognition of your work and it will help to protect your valuable nature. I can see that you do your work with a lot of passion for nature and we are grateful for that,” she said. Minister Schouten was highly positive about Saba’s nature and in particular Mount Scenery, which she climbed on Tuesday morning. “It was terrific, and I was struck by the way nature changes along the
trail.” She said it was important to protect this pristine nature, while at the same time keeping it accessible for people to enjoy it and discover it. The Minister said she was also impressed by the nature under water. She specifically mentioned the Saba Bank, the largest submarine atoll in the Atlantic Ocean with some of the richest biodiversity of marine life in the Caribbean, with a total surface area of approximately 2200 km².

“Many people don’t realize how big the Saba Bank is. There is a lot of attention for the coral reefs in The Hague. The coral reefs have our support,” said the Minister who assured that the coral reefs in the Caribbean Netherlands would have a prominent place in the Nature Policy Plan, and that there would be a bottom-up approach with input of the local stakeholders. In general, Minister Schouten was very positive about her first-time visit to Saba. “It was a good visit. I was impressed by the hard work that is being done on the island with few means. The solar park, the waterpipe project, the harbor project, the long-term thinking and planning, but also the protection of nature with relatively few people.” The Minister arrived on Saba on Sunday, September 1 and travelled on to St. Eustatius late Tuesday morning, September 3.

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