Bay of Panama saved from destruction
“There’s no way we would have been able to get to that day by ourselves...” writes Rosabel Miró, Executive Director of Panama Audubon Society in an emotional written message to the rest of the BirdLife Partnership. “We need to heal our wounds and show to our friends that are going through similar situations like the ones we went through, that it is possible to achieve your goals. We found strength in unity.”
Panama Audubon Society (BirdLife in Panama) is celebrating after winning a hard-fought effort to reverse the Panama government’s 2012 decision to withdraw protected status for the Bay of Panama Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), a site of international importance for migratory birds. Its protected status had been pulled because of short-term economic pressure for urban and resort development, including hotels and golf courses. At the same time, regulations on mangrove cutting had also been relaxed.
The legislative bill to reinstate full protection of the Bay of Panama was signed by Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela on February 2th 2015, World Wetlands Day. The new bill also includes recognition by law that the protected area is part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.
The Bay of Panama is one of five vital stopovers and wintering areas for migratory shorebirds in the Americas. The extensive mangrove forests play a vital role in supporting fisheries, filtering pollutants in runoff and protecting the City from floods and possible impacts of climate change.
“Many of the people that helped us in so many ways were at the signing ceremony”, said Panama Audubon Society’s Rosabel Miró in her correspondence. “Among those fighting shoulder to shoulder with us were NGO’s, community associations, business associations, politicians, allies from government institutions - they were celebrating, hugging us and smiling with us.”
Under the new Panama government, spearheaded by President Juan Carlos Varela, the outlook for the site appears positive. “The protected area, the Bay of Panama wetlands, not only belongs to our country, but belongs to the world, so we must show that we are able to maintain it, so we can enjoy its natural wealth and future generations continue to receive its many benefits”, commented government representative Emilio Sempris, part of Panama’s National Environmental Authority (ANAM).
“Through BirdLife we are part of a partnership that works for you when you need it the most”, finishes Miró in her message to BirdLife. “Even though our Partners can be geographically far far away we always felt somehow protected. We never felt alone. Thank you all. We really appreciate it.”