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Penalties for Breaches of Forestry Act

By: , October 9, 2023
Penalties for Breaches of Forestry Act
Photo: Contributed
Principal Director of the Legal and Forest Enforcement Services Division at the Forestry Department, Philip Cross.

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Persons may be subject to fines or imprisonment if they are found guilty of breaching offences under the Forestry Act, says Principal Director of the Legal and Forest Enforcement Services Division at the Forestry Department, Philip Cross.

In a recent interview with JIS News, Mr. Cross explained that activities such as the cutting down of trees in a forest reserve without having a timber licence is a serious offence and can result in a person being “fined up to $500,000.00 and or face imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years”.

“There are also broader offences, which include felling, girdling or marking a tree within forest management areas and protected areas, that would attract a fine of $200,000.00,” he added.

In instances where default on payment on the broader offences occur, persons may face imprisonment not exceeding two years.

There are also minor offences, such as assaulting a Forest Officer or Constable, which could attract a fine of $100,000.00.

While persons are permitted to carry out various commercial activities within these areas, they are being encouraged to ensure that they have the proper licences and permits to do so.

“To carry out certain commercial activities on what we call ‘Forest Roads’, you need to have a permit and then in terms of cutting trees, you need to have various licences to engage in that activity,” the Principal Director said.

These include a sawmill licence, timber licence, and road use permit.

Persons are also being encouraged to look out for signs that indicate that they are about to enter these protected areas.

“The way that the system is designed, is that if you are, let’s say, a landowner or an occupier, you have a positive obligation to know the boundaries of your property. So, the way the legislation is structured is it anticipates, and there’s a provision to that effect that a person who owns land or occupies land will take steps to identify the boundaries of the property,” Mr. Cross explained.

To help with this, there would be markers like a road, river or tree that can be used to identify the limits of a person’s land.

He mentioned, too, that “the National Land Agency has its website where you can always go, enter your valuation number and see where, more or less, the boundaries of your property are and get more detailed information if you need it”.

“Essentially, it is expected that you would take steps to identify your boundaries to avoid encroaching on the Forestry Department’s or the Crown Land,” he said.

To ensure the safety and protection of these areas, the Forestry Department engages in daily patrols as well as frequent interactions with members of the public.

“When they (offences) are encountered we try to serve contravention notices, and where necessary, bring persons before the courts for those breaches,” Mr. Cross said.

He noted, “If we do see an uptick in offences in one area, we will refocus our efforts in that area to ensure that it stops. We also try to maintain a presence as widely as possible to ensure that people don’t get the misguided impression that they’re not seeing persons in an area, so they’re free to do as they please.”

With this in mind, the Principal Director is reminding persons to “respect” the forest estates – lands that have not been designated but they are assigned to the Forestry Department for management, usually with a view to subsequent designation – and try to understand the importance of them.

“If you are involved in agriculture, ensure that you’re not within the boundaries of our forest reserve and that what you’re doing is not posing a threat to the forest reserves, because that’s a national issue,” he cautioned.

Last Updated: October 9, 2023

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