Residents and homeowners have the opportunity to contribute to protecting Montserrat’s wildlife through a new initiative being spearheaded by the Montserrat National Trust (MNT) and the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF).
After a one-year pilot project to test the approach, the initiative has received funding through Darwin Grant scheme and UKOTCF. Partners in the pilot were the Cork Hill Reunion Committee who worked to remove blackberries from gardens in the village, Dwayne Hixon who adopted the Old Road Bay beach area where a golf course with wetlands for birds and other sanctuaries have been included, and Tim Horton, who is turning land on Garibaldi Hill into a space for native vegetation which can serve as a natural habitat for wildlife.
Horton said Friday at the launch that no one needs a large space to be a part of this project. If everyone planted one native tree we would have almost 5000 trees.
‘Adopt-a-Home-for-Wildlife’, was developed by MNT & UKOTCF in 2016, as part of their wider ‘Saving Our Special Nature of Montserrat’ programme, in response to local needs, and piloted in 2017. It encouraged removal of invasive plants and their replacement by native species (by natural seeding or planting saplings from MNT’s Botanic Gardens), and other measures to help native plants and animals to thrive.
Sites adopted (in some cases by their owners or by groups helping public land) have included several habitats, from globally threatened tropical dry forest, to coastal wetlands now so rare on Montserrat, to shallow coastal waters. The pilot project proved effective in achieving native biodiversity-restoration. It resulted additionally in one project adopter providing safe habitat for another project, led by Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, reintroducing the critically endangered frog, the Mountain Chicken.
Sarita Francis, Executive Director of MNT, said: “This community-led approach enables community-groups not otherwise environmentally engaged to take part – and eventually lead – in conservation. Its expansion will increase Montserrat’s prosperity by fostering appreciation for the island’s natural resources in restoring tourism, saving business-costs, farming, well-being etc., and provide opportunities to young Montserratians, vital to ensure they stay on the island.”
Dr. Mike Pienkowski, UKOTCF Chairman, is currently on island to meet with the Trust and other partners. Ann Pienkowski, UKOTCF’s Honorary Environmental Education Coordinator, added: “This project has been several years in the planning and seeking of funding. Now, the new grant will enable us to roll out some of the work we have previously trialed successfully. But we are not just doing that, but are making significant additions during the project period. This includes an element on encouraging natural pollinators; this recognises the importance of the nature/sustainable small farming interaction. We also want to build on ideas explored in the pilot to involve young people more, both via schools and other routes. It is their future environment that the project looks to.”
Through the project, the Trust will provide help, advice on nature management, assistance and partnership with community members who share the same vision of living in harmony with nature. The advice will come through three part-time project officers. Occasional visits by international specialists will reinforce skills in the team (project-officers and Adopters).
Trust officials said there will be many ways to get involved with the project, for example: joining as an Adopter; attending training events, workshops and presentations; speaking about the project; becoming a youth representative, a volunteer or a donor; responding to questionnaires; reading articles and social media posts etc. These roles will be defined more fully in the early stages of the project, as it is essential that they are tailored to local needs.
The project-officers (once appointed), based at the Trust Office in Salem, will be the first point of contact for the project.
The registration process is expected to be announced in November. Contact the Montserrat National Trust at +1664 4913086 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.