National Protected Areas System Plan

The context for a National Protected Area System Plan

The diverse endowment of species and ecological communities of Trinidad
and Tobago has been the focus of many attempts to establish areas for conservation and management.  These include the western hemisphere’s first legally established forest reserve at the Main Ridge in Tobago, designated in 1776.  Since that time, protected areas have been declared under the Forest Act, Conservation of Wildlife Act, Environmental Management Act (Environmentally Sensitive Areas Rules), and the Marine Preservation and Enhancement Act.  All together, the areas formally designated total over 50 locations.

With more designated areas being added over time and across multiple pieces of legislation, there was a growing concern among managers, policy planners and other stakeholders that multiple designations of the same protected area have led to conflicting management approaches.  In parallel, a series of attempts were made to refine the protected areas of the country, to make these consistent with international standards for protected areas and to incorporate advances in the science and management of such natural areas.

The rapidly changing environmental and socio-economic conditions surrounding the perceived value, state of degradation and isolation, and potential future uses of these areas have led to a call for a rationalization of these areas.


Building on past work

Since 1972, there have been multiple attempts to improve the protection afforded by the legally designated protected areas and formalize a national system of protected areas.  These attempts have included national committees, draft policies, plans and legislation.  Four important milestones in the evolution of national thinking on the role, value and configuration of the country’s protected areas have included the:

  • National Parks Systems Plan (Organization of American States, 1978)
  • National Parks Systems Plan Policy (1980)
  • Tropical Forestry Action Plan (1991), and
  • National Parks Draft Management and Physical Plan (World Bank, 1996)

However, to date, none of these attempts resulted in significant changes to the formal system of protected areas for the country.  In this context, the new National Protected Areas Systems Plan is a key outcome of the project “Improving Forest and Protected Area Management in Trinidad and Tobago”.  The new Plan builds on previous attempts to rationalize the protected natural areas of the country, by using these plans as an initial framework, improving their potential for long-term viability and creating a system that is in step with existing international norms for protected areas design, designation and management.


Consultative Process

The development of the New National Protected Areas System Plan took into consideration the biological, socio-cultural and economic environment within which these sites exist, and “future-proofing” as much as possible, to ensure that irreplaceable biological, pedological and geological entities, patterns and processes are not lost.

Trinidad and Tobago’s existing protected areas provide an important starting point on which to build a resilient system, as many remain important reservoirs of biodiversity and geodiversity.  Selecting new protected areas, where possible, explicitly took into account issues of traditional use, access and uniqueness, to assign each of new protected area to a relevant protection class that reflects the intentions of the National Protected Areas Policy (2011) and which uses the IUCN Protected Areas classification system as a guiding framework.

Through focus group discussions, interviews and the hosting of national consultations, a draft Protected Area System Plan was developed in September 2017.  After further refinement of the draft document, the new National Protected Area System Plan was then proposed.



The following key documents are reference resources that were produced in the development of the new National Protected Area System Plan:


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