Browse The Legacy of IRF

Island Resources Foundation’s
Legacy for the Future

There are four institutional vestiges that will represent Island Resources Foundation in the future and with which our friends and supporters can continue to interact:

  1. This website, IRF.ORG, will continue to provide an extensive searchable catalogue of Foundation publications and related products as developed by IRF from 1972 to 2016, and will be supported by the associated IRF Blog page. See the discussion on the “About” page for more information.
  2. The Island Resources Foundation Legacy Fund, administered by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, will provide resources to support initiatives that reflect the Foundation’s decades-long priorities. Click here for details about the IRF Legacy Fund and how to contribute.
  3. In 2016 the Foundation’s institutional files and records were donated by IRF to the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in Sleepy Hollow, New York, where they will be maintained as one of the organizational collections permanently archived by the RAC and preserved for future scholarship and research.  Click here for more information about the IRF collection at the Rockefeller Archive Center.
  4. The Potter Fund for NatureTech.Solutions honors the service of Bruce G. Potter, IRF president from 1998 to 2016, and is designed to stimulate innovative technologies to improve resource management in the small islands of the Caribbean. The NatureTech.Solutions website provides more information about the award attached to the Fund, including how to support the Fund and how to apply for an award.

Island Resources Foundation
As It Was


  • A non-endowed, operating foundation incorporated in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1970, became operational in 1972 and sunsetted in 2016.
  • A not-for-profit organization that was tax exempt in the United States.
  • Funded by a combination of grants, contracts, collaborative partnerships, contributions and membership support (see the blog entry in the News section of this website for detailed project-by-project descriptions and costs for over four decades).
  • A service organization providing technical and professional assistance to small island states, primarily with donor support or public-sector contracts.
  • A major contributor to global initiatives designed to enhance the development options of small islands.


An approach uniquely adapted to small island development needs that emphasized:

  • The application of sound science to environmental problem solving.
  • Skills building for islanders and collaborative capacity building with island institutions.
  • Strengthening the availability of local, regional and global information resources for informed decision making.
  • Educating international agencies and donor institutions about the uniqueness of islands.


In 1972, IRF’s founder, Edward Towle, wrote in the Foundation’s organizing prospectus,

Within a small island, no problem or area of study can stand by itself, no piece of life remains isolated; every living and non-living thing forms an integral part of a structured whole. Similarly, an island chain is a delicate and fragile network, representing a set of highly interdependent relationships—island to island, system to sub-system, island to sea.

From this fresh perspective was born the central mission to which the Foundation dedicated 44 years of research, education, information sharing, technical expertise, and capacity building:

To protect and enhance the environments of small islands, especially those in tropical areas, and to assist islanders in the pursuit of development options that preserve the special qualities of island life.


Island Resources Foundation envisioned a world where island systems are not miniature microcosms of continental areas, but rather where it is recognized that a failure to understand the differences between insular and continental systems has unanticipated and too often undesirable consequences for islanders.

From 1972 to 2016, the Foundation’s body of work addressed those differences and assisted in the emergence of island-focused and island-specific environmental guidelines, practices and institutions.

From 1972 to 2016, Island Resources Foundation bought some time for islands—and for the people who call them home.


Specialized skill areas shaped IRF’s more than four decades of research, planning, and conservation work.  These included:

  • Integrated coastal area planning keyed to small-island conditions, especially island states with expanding tourism sectors, major problems of coastal pollution, and increasing vulnerability to natural disasters.
  • Technical expertise in biodiversity conservation for highly stressed insular environments.
  • A considerable body of hands-on experience in institutional strengthening, especially for public sector agencies and NGOs in the English-speaking Caribbean.
  • An established track record of providing sound environmental impact assessments and erosion-and-sediment-control applications within a small-island context.
  • An unusual capacity to assess, interpret and assemble complex scientific information in accessible formats useful for island decision-makers.


Some of the Foundation’s unique achievements during its 44-year history include:

  • The first ecological guidelines for island development (1973).
  • The first resource development guidelines proposed for Caribbean planners (1975).
  • A comprehensive coastal resource assessment and classification system for the U.S. Virgin Islands Coastal Zone Management Program (1976).
  • Planning guidelines for the Virgin Islands CZM Program, the first in the Eastern Caribbean (1976).
  • Early advocate for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) to guide Caribbean island development (1970s).
  • An economic assessment model for Caribbean parks and protected areas (1981).
  • The only long-term institutional strengthening program for environmental NGOs in the Eastern Caribbean (1986–1995).
  • Comprehensive environmental profiles for eight Caribbean island systems:  Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (1987-1993).
  • An early leader in promoting the development of Caribbean environmental information management systems and infrastructure (beginning in the 1990s).
  • The first Caribbean regional guidelines for erosion and sediment control (1995).
  • A regional strategy for strengthening national biodiversity conservation initiatives in the Eastern Caribbean (beginning in the 1990s)
  • The development and application of watershed-scale GIS models for runoff and sediment control in the small islands of the Eastern Caribbean (beginning in 2004).
  • The development and publication of island-specific profiles for the British Virgin Islands:  Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and the sister islands of Tortola (2009-2015).