The mountains of Grenada rise steeply from the island’s shore and are largely covered with tropical forest. Grenada’s volcanic history has marked Grand Etang Reserve with several 2,000+-foot peaks and a large crater lake at 1,740 feet above sea level.
At the highest elevations, on exposed ridges and high peaks, stunted trees are twisted into strange shapes, earning the name “elfin woodland.” It is home to some 450 plants, among them several endemic species. The reserve provides excellent habitat for two endangered species, the nine-banded armadillo and wooly opossum. The agouti, thought to be extinct, was re-introduced in 1987. Also within the reserve’s boundaries are eight species of lizard and five species of snake, as well as more than 50 species of birds, some of which are thought to be threatened or endangered.
The reserve is Grenada’s largest and oldest. The Forestry Department is in charge of protecting it, but the department’s staff and resources have been significantly reduced. Rangers conduct spot checks to deter hunters and loggers but do not actively patrol the area.
The area, which boasts an extensive network of hiking trails and waterfalls, is one of the most popular sites to visit on the island. Tourism offers both economic and environmental benefits, because the mere presence of visitors deters illegal activity. But in 2004 and 2005, hurricanes destroyed swaths of old-growth trees and a four-mile hiking trail. The trail, overgrown and littered with debris, is still almost unusable.
The Grenada Fund for Conservation has shouldered some of the enforcement burden for many years now. This grant will help the GFC continue to work with the forestry department to keep trails well maintained and safe, plant trees to restore damaged forest, and install signs and safety features on the trail.