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The House of Representatives on Tuesday (February 28), gave its approval to a Resolution declaring Croydon Mountain in St. James a Forest Reserve.Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke who brought the resolution before the House, said the property was the first parcel of privately owned land to be declared a Forest Reserve, and informed that some 3,000 additional acres were lined up for similar treatment and would come on stream soon.
Giving a background to the resolution, he said an application was made by private landowner, Dalkeith Hannah, for the declaration of the 132 acres of land as a forest reserve, as prescribed by the Act.
Mr. Clarke said following consideration by the Forestry Department and the completion of several site visits to the property by staff members from the Department, the decision was taken to recommend the area as a viable one for declaration as a forest reserve under the Act. He said the manner in which the property has been utilized since its acquisition, has served to preserve the terrain and by extension contribute to the protection of the watershed.
Member of Parliament for St. Andrew North Central, Karl Samuda, while supporting the resolution, queried what incentives were available to owners of large properties who would wish to have their idle properties put into forestry.
“Many more people who have large acreages, large sections of which are not utilized.find it burdensome to pay the kind of attention required to develop them in a way in which Mr. Hannah has developed his,” Mr. Samuda pointed out.
Responding, Mr. Clarke said there were incentives in place, noting that the Forestry Department stood ready to provide seedlings and other kinds of assistance to help interested individuals put the properties into forestry. In addition, the Minister said there was a remission on property taxes, once the area is established in forestry.
“Once you have started and you have begun to put the plants in, you will be given that kind of assistance,” he said.
The Forestry Department in its continuing quest to protect the forest reserves of the country, has employed various methods to achieve sustainability where the island’s forest reserves are concerned. The Forestry Department currently manages approximately 109,500 hectares of forested crown lands, which is about one third of the overall area which currently has established forest cover.
The period for declaration as a forest reserve is for 20 years in the beginning, with the option to renew the declaration period for a further period based on agreement between the parties.