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
The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) seeks to empower, educate and inform its community about the environment and greater world around them in which they live. Founded in 1959, BNT’s story began 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. While celebrating its 60th year in operation, the BNT recognizes its success in achieving the goals it has put forth in 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 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 for the organization and for this reason, its financials records are always made available to the general public and can be found on The Trust’s website. Directly on the website is also where many donors make donations to assist the trust in protecting the Bahamas’ delicate ecosystems.
In order to spread awareness of the work of the BNT and raise capital for its projects, the organization hosts many events throughout the year for the wider Bahamian populace. These include: the Wine & Arts Festival in October, and the Jollification Festival in November. These events have become some of the most coveted and widely anticipated festivities of the year, allowing families the opportunity to come together and socialize with other members of the community and participate 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 an array of sounds from local to international artists, and enjoying food from the many Bahamian food vendors housed at the event. Over the years the Wine & Art festival has become a popular event for adults of all ages to network, socialize and even date.
BNT’s Jollification marks the beginning of the Christmas season. It is a fun-filled family centred event where loved ones can reconnect and spend the day creating Christmas decorations, listening to Christmas music, and socialize with other families in preparation for the fast-approaching holiday. If you’re in The Bahamas during these times, we highly recommend you visit the events and experience the environment the BNT has to offer.
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. Its Discovery Clubs is how the organization builds stewardship among the youth of the country. The 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.