UNESCO, St. Mary's Biosphere. St. Kitts


The overall zonation of the reserve directly relates to the two Core Zones contained within: a 192.16  ha. terrestrial area, that is a part of a larger forest reserve national park; and a 212.37 ha. marine area that contains sandy beaches, a steep rocky shoreline, and coral reef as well as fisheries. The recognized importance of protecting the watersheds of the coastal Core Zone results in the incorporation of drainage ways locally known as “ghauts” and their mountainous headwaters. This localized biogeographical area corresponds to the location of existing settlement locations in the reserve.

The terrestrial Core Zone is located in a nationally protected area known as the Central Forest Reserve National Park (CFRNP). The boundaries of the terrestrial Core Zone follow the ridgelines of the watershed related to the coastal zone of the SMBR and run up to the peak of Olivees Mountain. In accordance with the goals of the National Park, the Core Zone contained within the CFRNP is reserved primarily for the conservation of biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and scenic resources for the sustainable use and enjoyment of future generations. One objective is to create economic opportunities compatible with conservation goals and sustainable levels. The portion of the CFRNP designated as core zone will serve as a corridor between the larger ecological network under protection and management of the CFRNP Management Plan and the proposed buffer zone of the biosphere reserve.

The marine Core Zone consists of sandy beaches, a steep rocky shoreline, and coral reef. The sandy beach forms the primary nesting habitat of the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) in the Federation. Conservation of the critically endangered leatherback turtle is a primary factor in the formation of this biosphere reserve nomination process. The rocky cliffs and coral reefs directly adjacent to the principal turtle nesting areas are also included within the Core Zone due to the impact they have on turtle habitat and for their intrinsic ecological values. Home to coastal avifauna, the rocky shoreline is also prone to erosion and picturesque as a scenic coastline. Two coral reef systems are included within the Core Zone. The North Reef and South Reef are located respectfully north and south of the Cayon River. In addition to turtle habitat associations, these two reef systems are included because of comparative research and monitoring potential.

The Core Zones fall under existing protection regimes of the state; however, the development of specific MAB-related protection is pending the acceptance of this nomination. The St. Christopher National Conservation and Environment Protection Act (NCEPA) of 1987 is the basic mechanism to “provide for the better management and development of the natural and historic resources for purposes of conservation; the establishment of national parks, historic and archaeological sites and other protected areas of natural or cultural importance.” (GoSKN, 1987). In NCEPA No. 5 of 1987 Part II, Section 4(a) through 4 (d) states protection objectives and classes of sites all of which can be justified to support the establishment, conservation and management of all zones within the biosphere reserve. An amendment to NCEPA, No. 12 of 1996 Part 1A, Section 2A establishes a Department of Environment to focus on creating environmental areas with planning/development objectives in mind. Section 2B (i) through (vi) state the functions of the Department of Environment, such as facilitation and collaboration of environmental programmes and non-governmental organizations. Please refer to Annex 1. MAB Legal Documents for a copy of these Acts.

The establishment of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Protected Areas and Associated Livelihoods (OPAAL) Project Demonstration Site is an outcome of a general provision laid out under NCEPA No. 5 of 1987. The Central Forest Reserve National Park (CFRNP) is the OPAAL Project Demonstration Site on St. Kitts. A CFRNP Management Plan has been created and is managed by the Ministry of the Sustainable Development. A copy of the Draft CFR Management Plan is located in Annex 2. Land Use and Mangement Plans.

The Fisheries Act of 1984 protects the territorial waters of St. Kitts and Nevis. The Fisheries Regulations 1995 Part VI Fishery Conservation Measures regulates the fishing of lobster, conch, turtle, coral sponges and marine algae and fishing techniques (e.g. spear guns, nets). The management of activities within the marine core zone are regulated by this Act (GoSKN, 1984).

Buffer Zone

In the upper elevations around the Core Zone, the boundaries of the terrestrial Buffer Zone follow the centerline of drainage courses immediately beyond the watershed boundaries of the coastal Core Zone. The Buffer Zone falls within the In the CFRNP between 1,000’ and approximately 1,200’. Traditional cultural uses of forest resources typically occur within this zone. Although not depicted as part of the SMBR Buffer Zone, the remaining portion of the CFRNP is a protected area and functions as a de facto Buffer Zone.

This terrestrial Buffer Zone continues into lower elevations to encompass several historic sites, intermittent streams or ghauts such as the Cayon River, and Ottley’s Ghaut, and the majority of the ridgeline of the Canada Hills above the Cayon, Keys, and Canada villages. This distinct area of the Canada Hills forms a transitional corridor between the cloud forest of the mountain peak and vegetation similar to the extreme southern peninsula of St. Kitts. It also functions as a scenic landscape for the cradle created by the watersheds associated with the coastal Core Zone

The marine Buffer Zone extends from setbacks of the main island road to the coastal zone. The Keys Bat Cave and Greatheeds Salt Pond are included in this roadside determination. Coastal dunes and cliff face setbacks are contained within the Buffer Zone. It also includes the majority of the historical scenic sugar cane railroad corridor and the Hermitage Estate core. The inclusion of the Greatheeds Salt Pond serves to focus research and highlight impacts of quarry and residential development activity on the island’s dwindling mangrove and salt pond habitat. The total Buffer Zone size is approximately 1180 ha; there are 723 ha of land and 456 ha of marine environment.

As the Buffer Zone includes areas similar to and immediately adjacent to the Core Zones, the existing protection regime is in effect under the same agreements as those mentioned above.

  • St. Christopher National Conservation and Environment Protection Act (NCEPA), 1987
  • Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Protected Areas and Associated Livelihoods (OPAAL) Project Demonstration Site; NCEPA No. 5 of 1987; CFRPA, 2007
  • Department of Environment Amendment to NCEPA, No. 12 of 1996 Part 1A, Section 2A, 1987
  • Fisheries Act, 1984


Additionally, the National Conservation and Environment Protection Act of 1987 and amendments promote conservation of historic sites, and areas of special concern including ghauts.

The National Development Control and Planning Act (NDCPA) of 2000, there are at least four institutions with overlapping mandates in land administration in St. Kitts. The main institution for the development and control of land is supposed to be the Development Control and Planning Board (DCPB). In regards to the coastal zone, NDCPA Section 66 establishes public right to access and recreational use of all beaches.

Privately-owned lands in the municipalities such as horticultural plots, homes, and businesses in the communities of Cayon and Keys fall under a large canopy of laws and related legislation that regulate the activities of citizens and visitors. For the few residential properties, adjacent to the main island road that fall within the Buffer Zone, the National Housing Corporation (NHC) has inherited the planning mandate of the Central Housing Authority (CHA).  Although the NHC does not issue permits, it receives Crown Lands and establishes housing units.  Indeed, this is one of the main instruments for changing existing land use in St. Kitts and thereby has the potential to affect land within the Buffer Zone.

The main activities occurring throughout the buffer zone include subsistence farming; small-scale collection of trees, plants for craftmaking, medicinal purposes, and fish pot construction; and fishing. These activities are traditional practices of the SMBR and have a low-impact on the surrounding environments. Additionally, local NGOs and community members are currently engaged in agrotourism and ecotourism ventures such as sea turtle monitoring and tagging on the coast, found-object jewellery making, cultural heritage and nature tour guiding, and model farm tours. Active and passive recreation also occurs in the buffer zone such as hiking, horse riding, windsurfing, beach running, and birdwatching. There are also industrial activities like sand mining and rock quarrying and illegal waste dumping happening in the buffer zone.

The community members of the SMBR buffer zone would like to create a culture centre at the historic Hermitage Estate and from there lead natural history tours along the Cayon River. Other planned activities include developing a railroad stop for the St. Kitts scenic railroad, building a educational kiosk on Keys Beach and creating local restaurants that would cater to the tourists coming to visit the SMBR.

Outer Transition Area

The proposed Transition or Cooperation Zone includes the villages of Cayon and Keys in the contemporary demarcation of St. Mary’s Parish. It also includes the Windsor University School of Medicine located at the historic Brighton Estate. Immediately adjacent to the south parish boundary, the St. Peter’s Parish villages of Canada, Canada Estate, Upper Canada and Bayfords are contained within the SMBR because of their cultural and biogeographical relation to the reserve area. The Transition Zone consists of 1,927 ha of marine and 786 ha of land (Please see Map 2. SMBR Zonation Map).

The Transition Zone is not a defined area of land, but rather an amorphous landscape that shifts with the challenges and opportunities in the biosphere reserve. Currently, the designed Transition Zone is predominately made up of villages and deep, narrow ghauts that outlet into the Atlantic Ocean. In part, the people who reside in these villages derive their identity from the ghauts that they live closest to. It is the vision of the SMBR to protect these ghauts from adverse impacts and guard the people from displacement.

Currently, the GoSKN has conceptual plans to expand a number of land use zones in the proposed Transition Zone. Placing these communities within the transition zones would provide an opportunity for the community to have input into the planning, development, management, and sustainable use of these areas.