Browse The Legacy of IRF

Island Resources Foundation Legacy for the Future

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

  1. This web site, IRF.ORG, including it’s extensive searchable catalogue of Foundation publications and related products over the years from 1972 to 2016 and the associated IRF Blog page. See the discussion on the “About” page for more information.
  2. The Island Resources Foundation Legacy Fund which will provide resources to support specific initiatives that reflect the decades-long Foundation priorities, administered by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands. Click here for details about the IRF Legacy Fund and how to contribute …
  3. The Potter Fund for NatureTech.Solutions, established by a contribution from Island Resources and several individuals to stimulate innovative technologies designed to improve resource management in small islands of the Caribbean. Go to the NatureTech.Solutions web site for more about this new innovation award and how you can support it directly, or how to apply for an award.

Island Resources Foundation as it was:


  • a non-endowed, operating foundation;
  • 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 42 years);
  • 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 43 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 2015, 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 2015, Island Resources Foundation bought some time for islands—and for the people who call them home.


Specialized skill areas shaped IRF’s 43 years of research, planning, and conservation work:

  • 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 public sector
    agencies and NGOs in the English-speaking Caribbean;
  • An established track record of sound environmental impact assessments and erosion and sediment controls within a small-island context; and
  • 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 the last 44 years 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 (
  • An economic assessment model for Caribbean parks and protected areas (1981).
  • The only long-term institutional development program for environmental NGOs in the Eastern Caribbean (1986–1995).
  • Comprehensive environmental profiles for eight Caribbean island countries (1987-1993).
  • An early leader in promoting the development of Caribbean environmental information management systems and infrastructure (1990 and ongoing).
  • The first regional guidelines for erosion and sediment control (UNEP-CEP, 1995).
  • A regional strategy for strengthening national biodiversity conservation initiatives in the Eastern Caribbean (ongoing)
  • The development and application of watershed-scale GIS models for runoff and sediment control in the small islands of the Eastern Caribbean (2004 and on-going).