PHILLIPSBURG – St. Maarten Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure Maurice Lake signed a service level agreement yesterday with the St. Maarten Nature Foundation worth 612,000 guilders (close to $342,000) over the next three years. Under the agreement, the Nature Foundation becomes the management and scientific authority for marine and terrestrial ecosystems in St. Maarten.
Minister Lake and Jan Beaujon, chairman of the board of the Nature Foundation, signed
the agreement yesterday afternoon during a brief ceremony at the A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall.
Claire Hooft Graafland, the senior policy advisor Environment and Nature at the Ministry, explained that the national ordinance for nature management and protection requires that the Council of Ministers establishes a nature plan and appoints a management and scientific authority. That role has now been bestowed on the Nature Foundation, its manager Tadzio Bervoets and his staff. The government will pay the foundation 17,000 guilders per month for the task.
The Nature Foundation is now authorized “to make and execute all decisions pertaining to the management of the marine and terrestrial ecosystems, species management and specifically introduced species,” Hooft Graafland said.
Part of the responsibilities is management of the marine park, dive moorings, fisheries management and the protection of endangered species. Other tasks include sea turtle nesting and beach monitoring and reporting, animal control and surveillance and monitoring. The foundation will also assist or lead research for government and advise on request, facilitate the police and harbor authorities, and function as liaison with relevant government departments. Emergency response to for instance oil spills are also part of the deal.
Nature Foundation manager Bervoets said that, since he started in his job four years ago, “it has not always been an easy journey. A few times we almost had to close our doors because of the financial situation.”
Bervoets said that, with the money that is now available from the service level agreement, the foundation could possibly hire additional staff for ranger functions.
Nature Foundation chairman Jan Beaujon noted that the organization has come a long way. “We have gone through seventeen years of ups and down to become what it is today. The staff of the foundation is able to take care of a lot of things for the government and to manage whatever we have on our island for years to come.”