Financing Nature Conservation

This article is from BioNews 17 – August 2015  See all BioNews issues here.


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Ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources in the Caribbean Netherlands: a look into the financial needs of Protected Area Management Organizations in Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius.

Protected areas around the world are generally managed and funded by government agencies, however in the Dutch Caribbean protected areas are managed by a not-for-profit non-governmental organizations or foundations, which are co-managed with local stakeholders. These organizations are also responsible for the development, implementation and enforcement of the islands’ nature management plans.

The park management organizations in the Dutch Caribbean face a number of chronic constraints, with lack of funding being the most critical issue. While they receive some annual financial contribution from island governments and are able to generate income through grants, user fees, souvenir sales and donations these sources of income have proven unreliable and often insufficient. This affects the capacity of park management organizations to carry out essential tasks and responsibilities. The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) was created in part to address the urgent need for long-term sustainable funding for the park management organizations. In 2006 DCNA created a conservation Trust Fund that is intended to eventually provide enough revenue to cover essential operational support for each of the island park management organizations. The target capital of the trust fund has however not yet been reached, and currently DCNA is only able to provide emergency funding.

Without a sustainable financial future, nature conservation within the Dutch Caribbean remains insecure. Evaluating the financial instruments available for nature conservation to ensure the best use of available funds is a key ingredient. A study by Dr. Barry Spergel in 2014 addressed this issue and a follow on study by IMARES attempted to fill in some of the gaps by evaluating the financial needs of park management organizations to fulfill their park management tasks. This study is of special significance in light of recent economic valuation studies on Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius that highlighted the importance of the islands’ marine and terrestrial ecosystems to the local economy, and therefore the importance of investing in sustainable nature management.

This IMARES study, headed by Ingrid van Beek used an activity-based approach to identify the budget requirements of park management organizations. The study identified the core management tasks of nature management, and then estimated their annual budget requirements based on quantitative estimates of prices for material and labor required to fulfill these core tasks. The four key elements of conservation management were prioritized: infrastructure, education and public awareness, monitoring and research, and patrolling. Using this analytical calculation model, van Beek et al estimated the annual budget requirements to be USD 1,461,000 for STINAPA Bonaire and USD 669,000 for STENAPA and SCF

Beyond determining budget requirements, the study looked into the financial gap between park expenditure and income sources of each management organization. While STINAPA Bonaire was shown to have a small financial gap of USD 40,000, both STENAPA and SCF have significant financial deficits of USD 470,000 and USD 270,000, respectively. Sustainable income sources for STENAPA in the past three years are estimated at just USD 200,000, and around USD 300,000 for SCF (USD 400,000 incl. EZ support for the Saba Bank Management Unit).

The study addressed the significant financial gap of at least USD 3 million in the DCNA conservation Trust Fund. That is, for the trust fund to start generating returns on investments of USD 1 million per year, its fund capital must be raised from the current USD 13 million to USD 16.67 million, as the study of Spergel revealed. This would be the minimum required for DCNA to fund the Caribbean Netherlands’ management organizations, leaving USD 50,000 to USD 100,000 to fund the financial gaps of nature parks on Curaçao and St. Maarten.

Ingrid van Beek also questions the allocation of funds for certain management tasks, notably patrolling, monitoring and research, pointing out that monitoring and research could be more cost effectively achieved through cooperation with partner NGOs, agencies and universities and “citizen scientists”. With modern technology and increased awareness they find that surveillance and enforcement could be more efficiently achieved through cooperative networks of organizations.


Beek, I.J.M. van, A.O. Debrot, C. Rockmann, R.G. Jak (2015) Structure and financing of nature management costs in Caribbean Netherlands, Den Helder: IMARES, 2015 (Report / IMARES C033/15)- p. 76.

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