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Tourism Takes the Bird: Are Proposed Changes to Four Seasons Development Enough to Protect the Rare Grenada Dove?
by Dr. George Wallace


A major resort development at Mt. Hartman National Park and Mt. Hartman Estate in Grenada threatens the largest and only viable population of the critically endangered Grenada dove (Leptotila wellsi), the national bird of Grenada.  The resort is being developed by United Kingdom-based Capital 88 and its Grenadian subsidiary Cinnamon 88 Grenada, Ltd., and will be managed and operated by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.  While the developers have made some significant improvements to the original resort plan, questions remain, including: Have sufficient measures been taken to protect the endangered Grenada dove?

Mt. Harmon National Park.
Mt. Harman National Park, hailed as a "critically important bird area for the Grenada dove" by Grenada's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and National Parks in 2006.
Photo courtesy Grenada Dry Forest Biodiversity Project.

The only official protected area for the dove is the 155-acre Mt. Hartman National Park, created in 1996 specifically to protect the dove. Following Hurricane Ivan in 2004, much of the dove habitat elsewhere on the island was destroyed, resulting in over 50 percent of the less than 100 remaining doves being restricted to the national park and unprotected portions of the 450-acre estate. The original development plan called for an 18-hole golf course, central hotel, 107 individual hotel units, and 255 private residential villas—200 on the mainland and 55 on Hog Island, just offshore.

From the start, this project was dogged by poor communication from the developers, Four Seasons, and the government of Grenada. In November 2006, the environmental consulting firm, JECO Caribbean, issued a “Conservation and Development Strategy,” triggering an outcry from conservation groups including American Bird Conservancy, which were appalled by the report’s failure to incorporate scientific data on the status and distribution of the dove into the development plan. The strategy presented would clearly degrade, destroy, and fragment existing dove habitat.

The government of Grenada and developers claimed that the conservation groups’ statements were alarmist and based on a preliminary design. No development plan had been approved by the government, and a full environmental impact assessment (EIA) was in preparation with a different resort design that would address their concerns. Four Seasons hid behind its role as a hotel management company, insisting that they are not involved in the environmental review process or anything in advance of running the resort when it opens.

Grenada Dove Sanctuary sign.
Sign reading "Protected area: Grenada Dove Sanctuary, Mt. Hartman National Park, Ministry of Tourism."
Graphic courtesy Grenada Dry Forest Biodiversity Conservation Project.

In January 2007, photos became available showing that much of Hog Island had been cleared by bulldozer in the same configuration as the maps presented in the conservation and development strategy. In April 2007, the government of Grenada passed an amendment to the National Parks and Protected Areas Act allowing the government to sell national parks to developers or other private interests with the approval of the Governor General—what many believed to be a precursor to the de-gazetting of the national park in preparation for its development.

By June 2007, the long-awaited EIA became widely available. Regrettably, it was merely a longer version of the conservation and development strategy, using the identical development plan. Among its most significant deficiencies, the plan lacked current and accurate biodiversity information. No field surveys of the dove were done as part of the EIA, and the EIA failed to use available dove survey data to plot dove distribution in relation to the siting of the development, or the existing dove reserve boundaries.   The importance of Mt. Hartman to the dove’s survival was understated and the EIA did not address the severe impacts on dove habitat and prospects for the species’ survival. The report suggested that as much as half of the existing dove habitat could be lost, greatly increasing the species’ extinction risk. Counter to accepted international practices for environmental assessment, the EIA report provided no analysis of alternative resort development options.

Hog Island clearcut aerial photo.
Clearcut areas on Hog Island match plans proposed in the Conservation and Development Strategy.
Photo courtesy Barbados Free Press.

During summer 2007, following the release of the EIA, and apparently in response to criticism about the above problems, the developers agreed to support a dove survey and hired a leading expert on the Grenada dove to conduct a detailed, range-wide assessment of the dove population and to provide feedback to the developer about the plan design. The surveys showed that there had been little change in the distribution and abundance of doves at Mt. Hartman National Park and Estate. Some new dove territories were discovered outside the estate to the north, and the population in the Beauséjour /Grenville Valle area had declined slightly. The upshot was that the Mt. Hartman population is by far the most significant single population. Failure to conserve the population could be disastrous for the species. The developers also may have recognized they were on the brink of a potential public relations nightmare if they did not take steps to better align the development plan with the needs of the dove.

The resort plan has gone through several iterations since the summer. The golf course has been retained, but the number of villas has been decreased to approximately 100 on the mainland portion of the estate where the doves are. The current proposal, which has recently been approved by the National Parks Advisory Council, will maintain the total area protected at Mt. Hartman at 155 acres.

Grenada dove.
One of the world's rarest birds: the Grenada dove.
Photo by Greg R. Homel, Natural Elements Productions.

A significant negative is that eight dove territories (20 percent of the Mt. Hartman total) will be lost under the plan. On the positive side, the protected area for the dove will be in one contiguous block, unlike the three unconnected blocks of habitat that exist now. The protected area would be fenced as well and restrictions would be placed on pet ownership at the resort. A trust established to provide ongoing support for the costs of management could result in greater long-term security for the dove than currently exists.

Negotiations are still underway among developers, environmental groups, scientists, and the government of Grenada. If the new plan moves forward as planned, it will be critical for the government to bring the Beauséjour/Grenville Valle area under official protection to mitigate the losses at Mt. Hartman, and they have expressed an interest in doing so. The developer and Four Seasons have expressed their desire to support the trust and the ongoing management of the protected area at Mt. Hartman. It is essential that this arrangement be spelled out in detail so that the amount and duration of the support is pinned down. In addition, areas to the north of Mt. Hartman need to be protected. The developer has expressed an interest in this area, both for dove protection and for the development potential of the hill tops. This could be a win-win situation for the dove and the development interests.


Dr. George Wallace, American Bird Conservancy's vice president for international programs, has been active in bird research and conservation for twenty years.

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American Bird Conservancy

Grenada Dove Campaign

Grenada Dove Factsheet from BirdLife International

Grenada Dove and Four Seasons Resort Project Conservation and Development Strategy

Mt. Hartman National Park / Mt. Hartman Dove Sanctuary




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