Ambassador nominee a ‘welcome environmental ally’
Save The Bays today publicly congratulated U.S. ambassador nominee to The Bahamas, Cassandra Q. Butts, for her declared commitment to helping preserve the environment of The Bahamas. The organization pledged to work with her on issues ranging from pollution at Clifton Bay to expansion of marine protected areas.
During her confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate last week, the attorney and former White House policy advisor said: “If confirmed, I will work to assist The Bahamas in protecting and preserving for future generations the incredible natural beauty that makes it the vacation destination of choice for so many people, including by expanding marine protected areas.
“As part of this same effort, I will encourage The Bahamas to adopt cleaner technologies and build strong and resilient energy markets, which will not only provide a more secure and sustainable clean energy future and economic growth, but also limit the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.”
According to Save The Bays CEO Vanessa Haley-Benjamin, Ms. Butts’ testimony touched on a number of STB’s core issues, including environmental conservation, the importance of energy sector reform and the urgent need to expand the marine protected area (MPA) system.
“We look forward to bringing to her attention the case of the North Bimini Marine Reserve (NBMR), which the government of The Bahamas has promised to establish for the protection of that island’s unique ecological heritage and the local industries that have depended upon it for generations,” said Haley-Benjamin.
“The NBMR would protect mangrove forests that serve as a nursery for the abundant sea life that has attracted so many visitors to the island over the years, and are vital for the maintenance of our marine resources across the entire northern Bahamas. Yet, despite appeals from many Biminites and the island’s local council, the government has yet to make good on its commitment and we believe working with Ms. Butts will help to help elevate this most important issue to the level of national attention.”
The statement from Save The Bays notes the organization’s strong support for expansion of protected areas in line with The Bahamas’ commitment under the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI), the first conservation effort adopted by governments in the region to provide sustainable financing for the effective management of protected areas. Participating countries, including The Bahamas, have committed to protecting at least 20 percent of near‐shore marine and coastal environments by 2020, and creating a national conservation trust fund with a sustainable finance mechanism that is dedicated to management of these protected areas.
“We hope to further discuss the implementation of this plan with the government, Ms. Butts, and any other international partners willing to aid in the protection of our marine coastal environments,” said Haley-Benjamin.
“In terms of energy reform, we hope to bring to Ms. Butts’ attention the shocking problem of oil pollution at Clifton Bay, which many have attributed to endemic system failures at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Clifton plant.”
STB has repeatedly highlighted the Clifton case as an example of the dangers inherent in an approach to power generation that increasingly relies on heavy fuel burning generators to meet the ever-growing demand for electricity.
“We share the ambassador nominee’s view that The Bahamas must make exploring the use of cleaner technologies for power generation an urgent priority and we are pleased to see that the government is exploring alternative and renewable energy options,” she said.
“We are also delighted with Ms. Butts’ concern for the preservation of the environment as a strategy for ensuring the empowerment of future generations of Bahamians, STB is very eager to introduce her to our Youth Environmental Ambassadors (YEA) program,” added STB Education Director Joseph Darville. “In only in its second year in existence, YEA has already touched the lives of thousands of students, sparking a love for the beauty and diversity The Bahamian environment and a commitment to preserving it in the face of pollution, overfishing, unregulated development and other pressures.
“The program teaches students the importance of sustainable development, emphasizing the vital relationship between a healthy natural environment and thriving local communities.” The popular program offers hands-on opportunities with field trips and site explorations.
“STB thanks US Ambassador-nominee Cassandra Q. Butts for her interest in helping preserve the environment of The Bahamas, and we look forward to working with her on these and a number of other issues,” said Save The Bays in a press statement. “We regard her as a most welcome environmental ally.”