NEW DIRECTIONS for 1999: A Report from 1998
Almost 27 years ago, Island Resources Foundation was founded to assist small island states to protect and enhance their environments and to pursue development options that preserve the special qualities of island life. Even as the Foundation’s external environment and internal leader-ship have changed and as institutional affiliations are realigned, this central mission remains constant.
The founding president of the Foundation, Edward L. Towle, announced his retirement in July of this year; in September, he was elected chair of the Foundation’s board of trustees. His resignation was prompted in part by an illness that had reduced his capacity to continue in the demanding role of chief executive officer. But it also reflects Towle’s realization that the time had come to pass the day-to-day leadership of the organization to his colleagues, particularly to Bruce Potter, who was confirmed by the trustees as president during their most recent meeting.
We are pleased to report that Dr. Towle will be pursuing a number of personal projects, in particular, a desire to write a book on his 31 years in the Caribbean, with a focus on the evolution of the conservation movement and the importance of individual leader-ship during the early years of that movement.
New Affiliation in the British Virgin Islands
After a three-year search, the Foundation has secured the long-term future of its unique research library on insular ecosystems and island resource management. Our objective was to identify an academic institutional affiliation for the library in order to ensure its continued development and to expand access to the collection. The library represents a major accomplishment of our founding president and has been an important intellectual resource of the Foundation.
---for 1999 and beyond
Our search ended recently when the Foundation entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the H. LAVITY STOUTT COMMUNITY COLLEGE in the British Virgin Islands. It establishes the framework of a collaborative relationship between the two institutions. As part of that relationship, the core of the Foundation’s research library was moved from St. Thomas to a College facility in Road Town, and in 1999 the Foundation will establish an office in Tortola, in collaboration with the College.
A New Office at Coral World
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Foundation is in the latter stages of relocating from Red Hook to an office at the CORAL WORLD aquarium and underwater observatory at Coki Point. Given the Foundations extension to the British Virgin Islands, the Foundation’s board reached a decision in early 1998 to down-size operations in St. Thomas. At this point, board member Henry Wheatley saw an opportunity to join the Foundation’s 26 years of experience in designing and managing marine-related programs with Coral World’s extensive facilities and professional staff, as well as its interest in applied marine science and coastal ecosystems. Wheatley, who has been a member of the Foundation board since 1972, is also a principal of the new Coral World. He was therefore in an ideal position to promote collaboration between the two institutions, which will include the opening of a Coral World-based office for the Foundation in 1999.
In addition to new facilities at Coral World and at the Community College in Tortola, the Foundation will maintain its auxiliary office in Washington, DC (where distribution of Foundation publications is centralized), and a program office in St. John’s, Antigua, where our Biodiversity Program for the Eastern Caribbean is based It will be a busy but challenging year ahead for the Foundation.
Island Resources Foundation has consistently cast a wide---some might even say eclectic---net in defining its program agenda. We have explored all kinds of environmental issues, within an insular context, from archaeology and agriculture to watersheds and wetlands, impact assessments and tourism planning, endangered species research and environmental policy guidelines---and much more.
At this institutional turning point, even as we look back, we must also look ahead to the first decade of the new millennium. Given its broad agenda in the past and the challenge of new leadership in the future, what will influence the Foundation’s overall programs in the years ahead? In addressing this question, President Bruce Potter has identified those specialized skill areas---our core competencies---that have informed the Foundation’s direction through almost three decades of research, planning and conservation work.
- Integrated coastal area planning, keyed to small-island conditions, especially island states with expanding tourism sectors.
- Technical expertise in biodiversity program planning and management for highly stressed insular environments.
- A considerable body of hands-on experience in institutional strengthening, especially public sector agencies and NGOs in the English-speaking Caribbean.
- An unusual capacity to assess, interpret and assemble complex scientific information in accessible formats useful for decision-makers.
- An established track record of sound environmental impact assessment of infrastructure and development projects within a small-island context.
- Capacity to define and utilize environmental information technologies, especially the new Internet-based tools for communication and GIS and mapping technologies for storage, manipulation and display of complex environmental information.
These are the specialty areas that defined the Foundation’s past and helped to make it a unique non-governmental organization.