- Work on the document lasted from 1998 to 2006, when an agro-forestry baseline study was done.
- The plan has been circulated to all stakeholders within the forest reserve areas.
- Thirty per cent or approximately 335,000 hectares of Jamaica’s land area have been classified as forests.
After years of consultation and scientific research, the Local Management Plan for the Cockpit Country Forest Reserve was officially launched on December 11, at the Lowe River United Church Hall, in South Trelawny.
Work on the document lasted from 1998 to 2006, when an agro-forestry baseline study was done, followed by a bio-physical inventory study of the area which resulted in a draft document.
Coming out of that first draft, a second document more targeted towards the forest reserve areas in the Cockpit Country was developed, covering an area of about 22,000 hectares.
Manager, Planning and Monitoring, Forestry Department, Mrs. Andrea Jones Bennett, informed at the launch that some four Local Forest Management Committees have been formed within the forested areas of the Cockpit Country, to have local input in the management of those areas.
She noted that the plan has been circulated to all stakeholders within the forest reserve areas.
“The plan was established to guide the sustainable management of the forest ecosystem…looking at its biodiversity, the water resources, the aesthetic values, and the potential for recreation, tourism, as well as community interaction in terms of what can you do to the forest and how can we benefit from it,” Mrs. Jones Bennett said.
Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, in his address at the ceremony, expressed concern at the rate at which the country’s forest cover is being destroyed, stating that about 300 hectares of forest cover is being cut down annually, for various reasons.
He pointed out that thirty per cent or approximately 335,000 hectares of Jamaica’s land area have been classified as forests.
“It is sad to say, but there are quite a number of persons in this country who regard these wooded areas as just bush to be chopped and burnt and the land developed or used for agricultural purposes,” the Minister lamented.
Describing the forests as the lungs of the nation, he insisted that there must be a reversal in the rate of destruction of the forests.
Turning his attention specifically to the forests within the Cockpit Country area, which was declared a Forest Reserve in 1950, the Minister outlined that the area accounts for approximately 40 per cent of the island’s fresh water sources, as it falls within the upper parts of three watersheds, and recharges aquifers in three parishes – St. Elizabeth, St. James and Trelawny.
He explained that the Local Forest Management Plan seeks to address all the possible threats to the forest cover in the Cockpit Country area, and will serve as a guide for the sustainable use and management of the rich biodiversity and ecology in the area.
“The plan is valid for a period of five years, and identifies the roles and synergies among the major stakeholders, including you the community members operating in the area,” he added.