History of The Bahamas National Trust
- The Bahamas National Trust was created by an Act of Parliament in 1959.
- As early as 1905, concern for the West Indian flamingos in the Caribbean was intense. In that year, at the first annual general meeting of the National Audubon Society, a plea was made to The Bahamas Government for the establishment of legal protection for the flamingos. Almost immediately, the Wildbirds (Protection) Act was passed. As Audubon records show, it was the first time in history that special protection for flamingos had been proposed and then established in law. Thus, early in the 20th Century The Bahamas positioned itself as a leader in conservation.
- In the 1950s Colonel Tolstoy approached several Bahamians regarding the advisability and possibility of setting aside islands which would serve as buffer areas to development and which might eventually become national parks.
- During the early 1950s Tolstoy’s idea was explored in greater detail. Experts in the United States and Great Britain were consulted and in 1955 a proposal was officially presented to The Bahamas Government. A year later, the Crown Lands Office temporarily set aside 22-miles of the Exuma Chain to allow Tolstoy and his colleagues to carry out a survey of the area.
- Under the auspices of the New York Zoological Society the survey was planned and local and international scientific personnel recruited to participate. The team comprised Carleton Ray, of the New York Zoological Society, Colonel Ilia Tolstoy, representing the Explorers Club, Robert Porter Allen, National Audubon Society, Daniel Beard, US National Parks Service, Oris Russell, Bahamas Department of Agriculture, Donald Squires, American Museum of Natural History, John Randall, University of Miami Marine Laboratory, and the Hon. Hubert A. McKinney.
- The decade of the 1970s saw tremendous growth. Membership was successfully cultivated, leaping from less than 88 to more than 1000 in a few years. Standing Committees were established as a means of harnessing the enthusiasm and expertise of members. Critical programs were initiated, many of which – such as the White Crowned Pigeon Management and School Education Programs – continue today.
- Most importantly, the Trust has continued with remarkable success to build the Bahamas National Parks System. During the 70s, 80s, and 90s new sites were steadily added and at the close of the 20th Century 12 National Parks existed, encompassing 315,000 marine and terrestrial acres.
- On April 30, 2002 the system was doubled in size when 10 new sites were designated as National Parks and the total acreage jumped to more than 700,000 acres and 26 National Parks under management. The Bahamas National Trust has a proud history. It is due in part to the wisdom of its founders but also to the energy and dedication of its members and staff over the years.
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