Towards a status of protected area
In 1992, Joep Moonen hears of the sale by the French Guiana bishopric of the land that is the current reserve. He is a Dutch biologist who, at the time, lived in Suriname and was installed in French Guiana for several years, He prepared a draft for a Tropical Park in order to protect and maintain the heritage value of this area. He sent this draft to Prince Philip (at that time President of WWF Netherlands) and the Prince Bernhard Chair of WWF International. Although appreciated, his project did not receive the support of WWF, because WWF does not intend to carry out land acquisition.
In 1993, Hans Pfeiffer, an official of the Dutch Ministry of Environment, visited French Guiana with Moonen, who there presents his project of ‘Tropical Park Trésor’. Pfeiffer goes back to the Netherlands with the draft of the project. He presents it to his friend Vijko Lukkien, at the time Director of the Utrecht University Botanical Gardens. Utrecht University is specialised in Neotropical flora of South America and shows immediate interest in the project of creating a tropical forest reserve. Lukkien and Pfeiffer gradually managed to convince the Executive Board of the University of the project’s merits.
The University agrees to lend the money necessary for acquisition. This could only be achieved through an independent legal institution such as a foundation. Trésor Foundation (Stichting Trésor in Dutch) is then founded on December 13, 1994 in Utrecht. Significant financial support is obtained from several Dutch companies, including a former electricity company and a national lottery in the Netherlands. Pfeiffer meets with representatives of the ecclesiastical union of French Guiana and starts negotiating the price of land. He concluded the transaction with the Bishop and the transfer of property (2,464 hectares) was formalised in 1995.
The Foundation strictly prohibits hunting and gathering in the reserve, as well as entering it. However, it quickly faces many difficulties in achieving its goal of protecting and enforcing regulations. The status of private owner confers only limited means. It quickly became clear that legal status was essential to carry out operations necessary for the management of the reserve. After numerous discussions with the Prefecture, the reserve was ranked as a Voluntary Nature Reserve (prefectural Decree No 598 ID / 4B of 20/05/1997).
From voluntary to regional nature reserve
Moonen initially runs the nature reserve alone and voluntarily. He monitors the site every week, welcomes visitors and maintains contact with the authorities and the Foundation. An association is founded in 1999 by a handful of French Guianese biologists to manage the reserve: the Regional Nature Reserve Trésor Association (published in the Official Gazette May 15, 1999). Some of them are still members of the Board today.
The manager and the owner set three main objectives to protect the environment and biodiversity of the nature reserve: protection of the site to maintain its integrity, participation in scientific research to improve knowledge in tropical ecology and realising public accessibility to raise awareness for the conservation of natural heritage. To fill this third objective, a botanical trail is opened in 2001 on the higher part of the reserve, accessible from the provincial route. An entrance building complements this project in 2002. In 2005, the building was completely vandalised. It was rebuilt in 2009, but burned again in 2012. A third project is under construction. So far no claim has justified these crimes and the vandals remain unpunished to this day.
On February 27, 2002, the democratic law that amends the Environmental Code, was passed. The Regional Nature Reserve (RNR) classification is now assigned to the Conseil régional (Regional Council), just like the responsibility of the former voluntary nature reserves. The decree implementing this law is published on May 18, 2005, making the ranking of new natural sites as RNR possible. The Trésor Foundation filed its request for classification as Regional Natural Reserve on May 17, 2006. On April 21, 2009, Trésor becomes the first Regional Nature Reserve of French Guiana by deliberation of the Conseil Régional. The terms of this classification are laid down in the deliberation of 12 February 2010 (see Chapter regulations).
The first employee of the reserve was hired in 1995. From 2004 to 2010, a second officer joined the team full-time under the leadership of the President (who also officiates as a conservator). A distinct conservator was created in 2010 and an animator position in 2012, bringing the pay team to four people.