Preserve Estate Maho Bay as National Park Service Land!
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Since 2009, the National Park Service has been working with the Trust for Public Land and Friends of Virgin Islands National Park to protect a 205-acre tract of land within Virgin Islands National Park at Maho Bay. Already 131 acres have been protected, and this year it is important that necessary funding is made available to complete this important conservation project on St. John. Add your signature urging Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to allocate the funds needed from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to complete this important land purchase!
The Maho Bay tract is critical to the national park, not only for its protection of beachfront land and the forested hills, but also for its strategic location. Protecting Maho Bay will connect the northern and southern sections of the national park.
The national park attracts visitors and worldwide attention to the Virgin Islands and St. John. Visitors to Maho Bay often come back again and again because of the unspoiled natural beauty of these lands. Protection of Maho Bay is key to maintaining the appeal of this area and sustaining the critically important tourism industry, which accounts for 80% of the US Virgin Islands’ GDP and employment. The Department of Interior recently reported that in 2010 visitors to Virgin Islands NP spent over $61 million in the surrounding community. This spending supported 1,084 local jobs.
We urge the National Park Service to ensure that the last phase of the Maho Bay project is funded this year, so this impressive Caribbean landscape will be protected for this and future generations.
More information about Estate Maho Bay and the purchase:
Virgin Islands National Park, located on the island of St. John, is a tropical paradise preserved for the enjoyment and edification of the public. Beautiful white sand beaches, protected bays of crystal blue-green waters, coral reefs rich in colorful aquatic life, and an on-shore environment filled with a breathtaking variety of plants and birds make St. John a magical place for visitors. More than 800 species of trees, shrubs, and flowers are found in the park, and more than 30 species of tropical birds breed on the island, which was designated a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations in 1976. St. John is also home to two species of endangered sea turtles, the hawksbill and the green. In addition, the park contains archeological sites indicating settlement by Indians as early as 770 B.C. The later colonial history of St. John is also represented by remnants of the plantations and sugar mills established by the Danes in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Few places on earth match the breathtaking beauty of Maho Bay. Its crystal waters and soft white beaches are rimmed by a lush forested slope rising 11,086 feet. Hundreds of tropical plant species and more than 50 species of tropical birds fill these lands on the island of St. John, at the heart of the American paradise of Virgin Islands National Park. Just offshore are seagrass beds, green and hawksbill turtles, and magnificent coral reefs. This fragile area contains large nesting colonies of brown pelicans, as well as the migratory warblers and terns that winter on St. John. In addition to its natural treasures, the largest concentration of historic plantations and ruins on the island is found within this area.
Available for acquisition in FY 2013 is the final phase of a 205-acre acquisition of land overlooking Maho Bay within the Virgin Islands National Park boundaries. The property offers spectacular views of the bay and extends the amount of publicly owned beachfront at Maho Bay. This property, known as Estate Maho Bay, is extremely important because it connects the southern and northern sections of the national park and will preserve significant natural and cultural resources. The land was historically used during the plantation era for agricultural activities such as sugar cane, coconut, and cotton cultivation. With increasing growth and investment throughout the Caribbean -- including places not far from the unspoiled beauty of St. John -- these vulnerable lands have become the focus of intense development threats. In recent years, more than one investor has envisioned private development along these shores, which would jeopardize the unique character of Maho Bay and the visitors’ experience of the park.
Recognizing the need to protect this unique property, over the past three years Congress and two different presidential administrations have allocated a total of $6.75 million to the Park Service for Estate Maho Bay. This year, $2.25 million is needed from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to complete the purchase of the property. TPL will convey these lands to the Park Service at a significant discount made possible by private donations. The estimated value of the 205 acres is $18.6 million.
Note:The Fiscal Year 2013 President’s Budget request for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) would allow this project to proceed pending Fiscal Year 2013 congressional appropriations to the LWCF account. LWCF is funded through receipts from offshore oil and gas drilling and not from taxpayer dollars.
**Note, this is NOT for Maho Bay Camps, this is for the 200+ acres of land that stretch from Maho Bay Beach up the hillside.
Friends of Virgin Islands National Park