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  • Effective January 2015, all sawmill and power saw operators must be registered and licensed with the Forestry Department to operate legally in Jamaica.
  • The new policy, which falls under the Forest Regulations of 2001, is aimed at regulating the island’s sawmilling industry as well as providing greater protection for the country’s forests.
  • The programme is a well-needed intervention in the Government’s efforts to preserve and conserve the island’s forests.

Effective January 2015, all sawmill and power saw operators must be registered and licensed with the Forestry Department to operate legally in Jamaica.

The new policy, which falls under the Forest Regulations of 2001, is aimed at regulating the island’s sawmilling industry as well as providing greater protection for the country’s forests.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Alwin Hayles, made the announcement on Wednesday morning, September 10, while addressing the official launch of the Sawmill Licensing Programme and Registry at the Hotel Four Seasons in New Kingston.

Mr. Hayles said the programme is a well-needed intervention in the Government’s efforts to preserve and conserve the island’s forests.

“The Forestry Department remains committed to the protection of the forests on crown lands and the encouragement of the conservation of forests located on private lands,” he stated.

Under the licensing system, persons who intend to operate sawmills must receive a licence from the Forestry Department. The application fee is $15,000, and once granted, the licence is valid for one calendar year, after which it must be renewed.

Mr. Hayles informed that a license is required whether the source of the lumber is from private or public lands.

He further noted that any sawmill operator found to be in breach of the requirement will be liable for prosecution and could be fined a maximum of $50,000, or in default of payment, could be sentenced to up to one year in prison at hard labour.

Additionally, the Permanent Secretary informed that the information collected from the licensees will be used to populate the Sawmill Registry, which will be housed at the Forestry Department. “If you are not listed in that register, you face the possibility of being prosecuted for operating a sawmill without a licence,” he said.

For his part, Principal Director for Forest Operations, Forestry Department, Keith Porter, said the agency is expecting full compliance with the new regulations.

As such, the Forestry Department will embark on a public education campaign, which will involve several public meetings across the island to sensitize individuals about the programme. He noted that the campaign will commence immediately and continue into early next year.

Mr. Porter informed that property owners including homeowners, who use power or other types of saws for personal purposes, such as for pruning trees on their properties, will not be required to get a licence, unless they intend to use their saws to engage in commercial activity.

“The Forestry Department hopes that through the introduction of these measures, we will be better able to regulate the logging practices within our state and privately owned forests,” he stated.

In the meantime, Mr. Hayles informed that in short order, the Ministry will take  the New Forest Policy for Jamaica to Cabinet.

The policy will give community stakeholders greater access to utilise forested areas in a sustainable manner and will provide greater support for the regulation of the industry by the Forestry Department.

“The policy also sets out a vision, principles and goals relating to our forestry sector, and looks at the national priorities for forests including our efforts at conservation, protection and reforestation,” he said.

It also addresses the role of the country’s forests in supporting rural livelihoods and the sustainable use of the island’s forest resources.

The Forestry Department has employed a number of measures as part of its efforts to protect forests and encourage sustainable use of its resources.

These initiatives include the declaration of 3,700 hectares of crown lands as forest reserves and forest management areas; increased patrols to detect illegal activities including joint patrols with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF); increased sensitisation sessions with the public on the forest laws; and the continued implementation of the agency’s permit and licensing system, which regulates access to the island’s forest resources.

It is estimated that the island’s annual deforestation rate is 0.1 per cent or the removal of approximately 300 hectares of forests every year. This includes the removal from crown lands as well as privately owned holdings.

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