I consider myself truly blessed to have grown up in a family who valued the great outdoors. As a child, I was exposed to the peaceful, sprawling prairies of Manitoba, Canada; the majestic mountains of British Columbia, Canada; and the historic New England Coastline. With parents and grandparents who took me camping, hiking and exploring, I was able to develop a deep love and appreciation for the environment.
One of the things that had the biggest impact on my falling deeply and madly in love with St Croix was the pristine marine park at Buck Island Reef National Monument. In my first year living on St Croix, I spent considerable time out there working with Big Beards Adventure Tours on the weekends – and when I wasn’t working, I was jumping aboard for the day to snorkel and explore the East End. I love that local families have this incredible resource in their backyard. I love that exposure to this environment can instill the same values of cherishing and protecting the natural world around us in the people that visit Buck Island: once in a lifetime, on a yearly vacation or every weekend with family and friends. But the kind of experience visitors to Buck Island have enjoyed since the park was established in 1961 is being threatened.
The National Park System is preparing to implement a new 20-year park management plan. Currently, there are four options being considered… well, kind of. Plan A (Our Buck Island‘s preferred plan) is “No Change”. As we understand it, this plan has to be included by law, but isn’t even being considered by the park. Plan B, NPS’s preferred plan, and the one that we understand that they will be implementing calls for banning all anchoring at Buck Island and constraining boaters (even on the West End) to a limited number of installed moorings. It also calls for the creation of a 5,000 acre restricted zone on the North side of the island.
Attorney Joel Holt’s Presentation at March 21, 2012 Save Buck Island Petition Drive
Breaking it down:
- President John F. Kennedy established Buck Island Reef National Monument as a National Park by Proclamation No. 3443 of December 28, 1961. In that proclamation declaration, he protected Buck Island for historic and scientific preservation “subject, however, to the condition that the United States, including any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall not adopt or attempt to enforce any rule, regulation or requirement limiting, restricting or reducing the existing fishing (including the landing of boats and the laying of fishpots outside of the marine garden), bathing or recreational privileges by inhabitants of the Virgin Islands, and shall not charge any fees for admission to the area.”
- Read more at the American Presidency Project: John F. Kennedy: Proclamation 3443 – Establishing the Buck Island Reef National Monument in the Virgin Islands of the United States http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=23992#ixzz1pnuXuSQj
- On January 17, 2001, President Clinton established Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument (VICR) and enlarged and modified Buck Island Reef National Monument (BUIS). Presidential Proclamation Nos. 7399 and 7392, respectively. The Proclamations give the Secretary limited discretion in what activities and uses she may allow. She must prohibit all extractive uses, but she may allow very limited fishing in two areas at VICR and may permit certain very limited kinds of boat anchoring at BUIS. https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2003/04/04/03-8190/virgin-islands-coral-reef-national-monument-and-buck-island-reef-national-monument
- Since 2001, by mandate, boats on the West end of Buck Island have only anchored below the water line (in wet sand). This protects any potential sea turtle nests on this active nesting beach. Any laid below the waterline would be flooded and not viable, so anchoring in the wet sand is safe. This is anchoring IN SAND and there have been no studies to show that anchoring in this sand is a problem. In fact, many would argue that the boaters at Buck Island who do anchor out there in the wet sand are some of the strongest advocates and protectors of the island. They self-regulate, advise new boaters on the rules and protect the environment that we all consider OUR backyard at OUR Buck Island. “They haven’t done one study to show that anything that’s going on hurts the environment. And if it did, then we’d be the first ones to say – then stop it.” Attorney Joel Holt
- We are avid environmentalists who want to continue to enjoy Buck Island while protecting the environment.
The current proposed “Plan B” which is the plan that has been publicly stated by Park Superintendent Joel Tutein as the Park Services preferred plan, proposes a prohibition on all anchoring in sand and forcing boats even on the West Beach to be limited to a restricted number of moorings. What this means is that boats will be forced to drop passengers off on the beach and then go out to moorings that are set at a certain distance. Effectively leaving their passengers behind.
The second objectionable portion of Plan B is the proposed 5,000 acre Marine Park Area on the Northside of the island or “Red Zone” in the image which will restrict all activity in that area to swimming only. Yep, you read that right, ONLY SWIMMING. Prohibited activities will include snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, kite surfing, wind surfing and any other green activity besides swimming. This is some of the most pristine snorkeling and diving area on the island that receives little activity to begin with. But ALL activity will be restricted. The purpose is to protect endangered Elkhorn corals. However, the expansiveness of the 5,000 acres includes a large area of corals that are in waters 100 feet deep. How would this be harmed by paddleboard or snorkelers on the surface? I found it interesting that last week when Superintendent Tutein and another NPS employee were on the radio and it was brought up by a caller that its SAFER to snorkel in that area with a mask on so that you can see the corals and avoid them – they stumbled a bit on their words. We aren’t asking to drill oil or run jet skis or power boats even. We are asking to retain the right to explore in a mindful, environmentally sound way. We are asking to preserve the rights of the children of the island and residents of the entire nation and the world to have the right to view this magical underwater world.
Its important to note that this isn’t a local issue, this is a national issue because it’s a National Park. YOUR National Park. The park is attempting to limit YOUR usage and ours with no firm reason or study that shows that by implementing these changes they will be protecting something that is currently being harmed by our activities. If that were so, we would be behind them.
Why is this so important?
I think this quote says it best: “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” – Baba Dioum, Senegal
By retaining the rights to enjoy this area of the marine park in a low impact way, we retain the ability to teach others about the beauty that is there under the surface. We can help others understand why it is so important to conserve and protect our oceans and the animals that live in it. By sharing the beauty and wonderment of this underwater world, we can share our love of OUR Buck Island. We want to protect the environment, but we also want to enjoy it in a safe and protected way. That’s all we are asking.
What Can You Do to Help?
Download the NPS Public Notice which includes recent frequently asked questions, Public Meeting times & Directions to the meeting location.
So I implore each and every one of you reading this to take action TODAY. Here’s what you can do to help us:
- Put your comments on record with the National Park Service (we need your voices!)
- Click here to go to the National Park’s Buck Island Plan http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=357&projectID=11115&documentID=45917
- Click on “Comment on Document”
- Share Your Comments. We hope you agree with us and voice your opinion to “Choose Plan A, No Change”
- Note: On the page, there are download of each section of the plan if you would like to review the information before commenting.
- Download, circulate and sign the petition to vote for Plan A. You don’t have to live on St Croix! If you’ve been to Buck Island or ever plan to go, show your love.
- How to return completed forms to the “Save Buck Island” Committee:
- Drop them off at Centerline Car Rentals in Christiansted or La Reine
- Give them to a Save Buck Island Committee Member
- Mail them to: Save Buck Island, 3132 Company Street, Christiansted VI 00820
- Or Bring them with you to the Public Hearing on Wed March 28, 2012 and Thurs March 29, 2012
- Attend the Public Hearings! Its crucial that we are there in numbers. Unfortunately, these meetings have been scheduled during Spring Break week when many in the boating community are already scheduled to be away. So, if you are here on St Croix, please be sure to come out. National Park representatives from Washington DC will be there.
- When: Wednesday March 28 and Thursday March 29 from 6-8 pm
- Where: Slave Market (Old Post Office) on Company Street across from the Steeple Building.
- Free parking will be available in the Fort Christianvaern parking lot for the meeting.
- We understand that there is only 30 minutes allotted for public comment. So bring a sign to hold up that says “Plan A”!
Our Buck Island a group of concerned citizens who love Buck Island, St Croix, USVI, and who want to take an active role in how the island/national monument is managed by Federal government representatives. To join our group go to: www.facebook.com/OurBuckIsland
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org