A Look Inside The BNT
“You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand these resources are their own, that they must protect them.” – Wangari Maathai, Enviornmental Activitist & Nobel Laureate
Empowering, educating and informing the people of the Bahamas is exactly what the Bahamas National Trust organization dedicates itself to. The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) was founded in 1959, but its story begins one year earlier when Ilya Tolstoy; grandson of the famed Russian author Leo Tolstoy, gathered a group of concerned conservationists to protect the Exuma chain of islands from development. As a result of the success of this expedition the Exuma Cay Land & Sea Park was created, and one year later the Bahamas National Trust was established.
Today the BNT is tasked with the management of the Bahamas’ national park system, approximately 2.2 million acres of both terrestrial and marine areas. It is the only non-government entity in the world tasked with the management of a country’s national park system. The BNT’s goal is to educate people on the importance of protecting the natural ecosystems, and to inspire people to take part in the protection of these areas in the Bahamas. Celebrating its 60th year in operation, the BNT has been extremely successful in achieving its goals of protecting the environment and educating the public. The BNT has protected more than 32 national parks in the Bahamas including: Bonefish Pond National Park, Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park, Abaco National Park, and Inagua National Park which have become popular must-see tourist attractions in The Bahamas.
As a non-profit organization, the majority of the Bahamas National Trusts’ operating revenue is generated through donations. Last year alone the BNT generated $4.6 million dollars which will be rededicated to the preservation of land within The Bahamas and the upkeep of the areas currently protected by the Trust. Financial transparency and accountability are extremely important to the BNT, for this reason its financial records are always available to the general public and can be found on the trusts website, bnt.bs. Direct on the website is where many donors can make donations to assist the trust in protecting the Bahamas’ delicate ecosystems.
As important as the BNT is, not all of its activities are serious affairs. In order to spread awareness of the BNT, its projects, and to raise capital for these projects. The BNT hosts many annual events for the public such as the Wine & Arts Festival in October, and the Jollification Festival in November. These events have become some of the most coveted and widely anticipated events on the islands. Giving families the opportunity to come together and socialize with other members of the community, while also participating in the activities organized by the trust.
The Wine & Arts festival allows members of the community the opportunity to tour an outdoor art gallery inside The Retreat; one of the parks protected by the BNT, while sampling the best wines from around the world, listening to a mix of jazz and local music, and enjoying food from the many Bahamian food venders housed at the event. Over the years the Wine & Art festival has become a popular event for adults of all ages to network, hangout with friends, or even have a date – that many couples cherish over years.
In the Bahamas, the Bahamas National Trust’s Jollification marks the start of the Christmas season. It is a fun-filled family centred event where families reconnect spending the day creating Christmas decorations, listening to Christmas music, and socializing with the families in preparation for the fast-approaching holiday. If you’re in the Bahamas during these times we highly recommend that you make time to visit the events and experience the environment the BNT creates.
The Bahamas National Trust believes that educating and empowering the youth of the country is the only way to truly protect the future of the ecosystems of the Bahamas. One way the BNT is currently doing this is by building stewardship within the youth of the country through its Discovery Clubs. The BNT’s Discovery Clubs use a combination of the country’s national parks as outdoor classrooms to connect the youth with the natural environment and educate them of the many species that inhabit the Bahamas, and the connection the protected areas have to the heritage and livelihoods of the Bahamian people.