Funding needed for further restoration! 
the We are presently seeking funding to continue this restoration project on Sandy Key. Plans are being put in place now for a trip later in 2016 to return to the small island to continue what was started and ensure the trees don't simply come back undoing all the good work that has been done to date.  

Please visit the donation page because you can make a difference!  

Thank you again Rufford Foundation in 2012...
In the spring of 2012 GICS again sent several individuals out to Sandy Cay to continue this critical work to reverse the effects of the invasive Australian Pine. A key accomplishment on this trip was the removal of all of the largest trees meaning a chain saw will not be needed on future trips! (A tremendous hassle when you consider bringing too much toothpaste on board an airplane can land you in trouble with the TSA, try bringing on a chainsaw!) 

Rufford Foundation comes to our aid in 2011...
GICS sent 4 people out to Sandy Cay in May 2011 to access work done in 2009 and continue the work on eradicating this invasive species.  The effort was very successful eradicating over 90% of the invasive Australian Pine. 


Australian Pine Removal Project
Sandy Cay, Bahamas  
Ongoing Project
The Issue with Invasive Species

On a small island it doesn't take long for an aggressive species, plant or animal, to take over and upset the natural balance.  In this case we are talking about a very aggressive tree species known as the Australian Pine, Casuarina species.  Growing at a rate of 5-10 feet per year (up to 100')  they quickly displace native plants leaving native animals without their natural food source.  On a small island this can mean extinction for such fragile species.  So aggressive - it is illegal to posses the species anywhere in the state of Florida with the intent to plant or sell.  Originally introduced in Florida as strong, resilient, wind breaks and cheap landscaping - Florida eventually woke up to the fact that they were taking over.

Resistant to salt spray the Australian Pine thrives on these small Bahaman islands.  Their shallow root system makes them especially susceptible to wind damage while also upsetting the nesting grounds for sea turtle species.  On Sandy cay we are seeing the displacement of the Sea Grape, a food source vital to the future of the endangered native iguana populations.  Theories vary for how they came to the islands from costal winds carrying the seed from Florida, the seas carrying whole plants dumped once outlawed in Florida to intentionally planted for the same reasons Florida residents originally sought them out.

Eradicating the Australian Pine is no easy task. Any trace of the plant left behind will repopulate the island in a matter of years to where your original efforts can't be found. You must always include a plan to follow up and continue to monitor the island to ensure any level of success in the long term. 

Thanks to Your Generous Donations GICS is pushing back against the Australian Pine Invasion
Edgar Fortune, Ricky Escobar and horticulturist Dave Bobbroff spent 7 days on Sandy Cay in June 2009 on a restoration effort cutting down the invasive Australian pine   

Note the deluxe accommodations that await you on a deserted island... 

The trees were deliberately planted on neighboring islands by residents looking for an effective screen against the winds, Australian Pine has a deserving reputation as a very hardy and effective plant for this purpose however residents are finding out the hard way what many communities already know - like the kudzu vine it's an invasive species that once given a chance to take hold can be very difficult to remove.

The largest trees were the easiest to remove as they were simply cut 6" above the ground and working quickly garlone (a very effective herbicide) is applied, drawn into the wound and fed directly to the root to ensure the tree does not return. 
The smaller trees took much more effort due to sheer numbers however armed with loppers, hand saws and garlone progress was made.  Future efforts will be necessary to continue the battle against the Australian Pine and GICS will be there with saws in hand. 
The trees, branches and boughs were piled on the beach and burned to the sand in an effort to keep them from coming back once removed.  It's a long hard battle but one that needs to be fought on behalf of the inhabitants, both flora and fauna, of these remote and fragile islands.