BirdsCaribbean Executive Director, Lisa Sorenson, today announced the first recipients of grants from the Betty Petersen Conservation Fund. The “Betty Fund” was created to support conservation projects in the Caribbean that engage and empower communities and stakeholders to both protect and sustainably benefit from their birds, an approach used successfully by the woman in whose memory the Betty Fund is named. In 2019, three conservation projects in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and St. Lucia were granted over $132,000, with commitments to an additional $114,000 for the second year of these projects.
The three organizations to receive Betty Funds from BirdsCaribbean are:
• Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) for “Black-capped Petrel Conservation Through Poverty Alleviation in a Haitian Community”
• Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust for “Engaging Local Communities in Reversing the Decline of the Endangered White-breasted Thrasher by Restoring Key Nesting Sites and Reducing the Impacts of Invasive Species”
• The Peregrine Fund for “A Holistic Approach to the Conservation of Critically Endangered Ridgway’s Hawk in Dominican Republic”
“It was a very difficult choice,” expressed Andrew Dobson, Chair of BirdsCaribbean’s board and a member of the Betty Fund’s review committee. “We received 24 pre-proposals representing extremely important conservation work in 16 island nations. We invited full proposals from six organizations, and while virtually all of these were deserving, we had to narrow these down to three projects.”
The 2019 Betty Fund projects all exemplify the principle that conservation is a social undertaking, and in each human empowerment and benefits are explicitly addressed. Project approaches include establishing tree nurseries with local schools in St. Lucia to help the White-breasted Thrasher, training in sustainable agricultural practices and sponsoring a soccer team in Haiti with the local name, Diablotin, of the Black-capped Petrel in Haiti, and providing hawk-proof chicken coops to farmers in the Dominican Republic to reduce shooting of the Ridgway’s Hawk.
Additionally, all three of the selected projects focus on an Endangered or Critically Endangered species endemic to the Caribbean. “Species endemism is not a requirement for support from the Betty Fund” explained Dr. Sorenson, “but it’s gratifying to be able to direct these inaugural funds towards birds that are uniquely Caribbean.”
The Betty Fund was launched in 2018 from the generous donations of individuals who knew Betty Petersen personally or were inspired by her work. “I knew Betty for almost 30 years,” said BirdsCaribbean Board member, Charles Duncan. “She was, in her own way, a wizard. She turned local communities and school kids into committed conservationists, struggling NGOs into recognized players on the inter-American scene, and “paper parks” into real protected areas. And in the process she reminded us how rewarding it is to lend a hand when none is expected.”
Betty’s husband, Wayne Petersen, spoke on behalf of the family stating, ““Betty was neither a trained scientist nor an ornithologist. However she was a deeply caring, kind, and gentle soul who understood people, their needs, and their feelings. It was these attributes that made her sustained efforts on behalf of bird conservation in Latin America and the Caribbean so successful and what eventually made her a beloved, admired, and respected figure. I know that Betty would have been modestly overwhelmed by the way BirdsCaribbean is carrying forward her legacy – a legacy of which I am deeply proud.”
BirdsCaribbean will continue to fundraise for the Betty Fund, especially given the commitment for year two funding for the three inaugural projects. Dr. Sorenson said, “The recipients have committed to raise almost $275,000 in matching funds for their projects so, in just the first two years of its existence, the Betty Petersen Fund will have enabled more than a half-million dollars for conservation of endemic birds in the Caribbean. We are off to a great start, and we can’t wait to see what other projects we can fund in the ensuing years.”
“What wonderful news!” commented Adam Brown of EPIC, a recipient of funding for his work on the endangered Black-capped Petrel in Haiti. “We look forward to promoting petrel conservation the way Betty would have been happy to support.”
For information on how to contribute to the Fund and/or how to apply for funding please visit the BirdsCaribbean website at https://www.birdscaribbean.org/the-betty-petersen-fund-for-conservation/.