St. John’s Virgin Islands National Park removed from UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves


Virgin Islands Free Press quotes from National Geographic article “UN Announces 23 New Nature Reserves While U.S. Removes 17” to report on how the United States government has withdrawn St. John’s Virgin Islands National Park from the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves program. There were previously 47 biosphere reserves in the U.S.—from Alaska to the Virgin Islands—and now there are 17 less. Virgin Islanders are stunned by the news. [Wild guess, anyone? I wouldn’t want to be called a conspiracy theorist. . .] Among the 23 new sites added are Savegre Biosphere Reserve (Costa Rica); La Selle – Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (Dominican Republic / Haiti); and San Marcos de Colón Biosphere Reserve (Honduras).

[. . .] There was no immediate comment from non-voting Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, who is apparently still unaware that the distinction has been removed from the territory.

The move was made during the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme meeting in Paris this week. Bulgaria also removed three sites.

“Prior to this year, a total of 18 sites had been removed from the program since 1997, by seven countries,” National Geographic noted.  “It’s not currently clear why the U.S. and Bulgaria asked to remove those sites: requests for comment have not yet been returned. In the past, sites were removed after countries were no longer able to meet the requirements of the program for protecting them.”

According to the United Nations, biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located.

As detailed by the conservation nonprofit George Wright Society, the biosphere program was launched in the 1970s to establish internationally designated protected areas, help minimize the loss of biological diversity, raise awareness on how cultural diversity and biological diversity affect each other, and promote environmental sustainability.

But over the years, the program has been criticized by certain individuals and groups as—per this Infowars post—a United Nations “land grab” of American landmarks.

The George Wright Society writes: “A large, almost bewildering variety of charges have been alleged about biosphere reserves. Many of these charges revolve around a basic fear and distrust of the United Nations. This category of objections includes such claims as the United Nations is poised to invade the United States, confiscate American land, impose some kind of ‘new world order’ on citizens here, and so forth. There is no truth whatsoever to these charges.” The UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves is a United Nation-run program meant to designate protected ecological areas throughout the world, according to National Geographic.

The previous U.S. total was 47. Among the sites removed from the list are the Virgin Islands National Park in St. John and the California Coast Ranges. [. . .]

[Among the] 23 new sites added are:

Savegre Biosphere Reserve (Costa Rica) —This site is located on the central Pacific coast, 190 km from the capital, San José. This reserve has high biodiversity value, hosting 20% of the total flora of the country, 54% of its mammals and 59% of its birds. It has approximately 50,000 inhabitants, whose main activities are agriculture and livestock rearing. Crop production is significant in high altitude areas, including plantations of apple, pomegranate and avocado. During recent years, ecotourism has increased and has become a source of socio-economic growth in the region.

La Selle – Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (Dominican Republic / Haiti) —This biosphere reserve includes the reserves of La Selle in Haiti, designated in 2012, and Jaragua-Bahoruco in the Dominican Republic, designated in 2002. These two reserves represent ecological corridors divided by a political and administrative frontier. Bringing them together should allow better management of the environment.

San Marcos de Colón Biosphere Reserve (Honduras) – This site, which covers a surface area of 57,810 ha, is located some 12 km from the Nicaraguan border, at an altitude of 500 to 1700 metres. It is characterized by significant biodiversity and the presence of several endemic species of fauna. Eighteen villages are located on the site whose population numbers 26,350 inhabitants. Their principal activities include horticulture, fruit and coffee production, the growth of ornamental plants, cattle rearing and dairy production. The region is also known for its saddlery products (belts, harnesses, boots etc).

See full articles at and

[Photo above: Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI.]

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