JIS News

Private landowners are being urged to plant trees on lands not in use to increase the island’s forest cover.
The call came from Marilyn Headley, Conservator of Forests, as she addressed a JIS Think Tank at the agency’s Half Way Tree Road office recently.
She said the effort was aimed at addressing the problem of deforestation from the cutting down of trees for industrial and housing developments, agricultural lands, among other things.
Mrs. Headley explained that while the Forestry Department was replanting a number of areas that have been bared, the Department only had control over 110,000 hectares of the country’s 360,000 hectares of forested areas, with the rest being in private hands.
The Department therefore introduced a Private Planting Programme in 1998, to encourage private landowners including corporations, to plant. Under the programme, landowners are provided with seedlings and are given advice on the species that would do well in particular areas.
Technical persons from the Department provide information on planting schedule and plot management and visit the plots periodically to verify the survival rate of species.
Planting is encouraged in fragile areas such as the top of rivers to prevent soil erosion, while farmers are urged to plant in between crops and in areas where they cannot put in vegetables or fruit trees.
Miss Headly said some 230,000 seedlings have been distributed to 530 persons including farmers, large landowners and companies under the Private Planting Programme to date. This translates into approximately 385 hectares of land planted, she stated.
She noted that a favourite plant requested was mahagony, which, although having a 30-year maturity period, had high income earning potential. Other seedlings provided are cedar, mahoe, Caribbean pine, Spanish elm, pouie, poor man’s orchid and Poinciana.
Miss Headley praised the many individuals and institutions that have responded positively to the Department’s request to replant and had special commendation for the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the Lift up Jamaica programme, for assisting in the production of seedlings.
The Department has also collaborated with private companies in the programme, receiving assistance from the Cigarette Company of Jamaica to replant the Wallenford area (where St. Andrew meets Portland), while Alcoa Minerals of Jamaica (JAMALCo) was assisting to replant the Mocho area that had previously been used for bauxite mining.
Noting that a major cause of land degradation or deforestation was bauxite mining, Miss Headley said that talks were being held with other bauxite companies such as Alumina Partners of Jamaica (ALPART) and West Indies Alumina Company (WINDALCo) to get them to replant mined-out lands.
The Forestry Department is also conducting research on the state of trees planted on reclaimed bauxite land.
Miss Headley noted that while there was no national awareness programme to encourage replanting, public education campaigns have been carried out in mainly rural areas targeting schools, community persons and institutions such as the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
The Department also works with non-governmental organisations (NGO) including the Dolphin Head Trust and the Jamaica Conservation Development Trust (JCDT) to encourage reforestation efforts in communities island wide.
To support these efforts, local forest management committees have been formed in Portland and St. Mary as a means of protecting the forest reserves in these parishes. The Forestry Department also distributes posters, brochures and flyers about the Private Planting Programme.
But even as the Department carries out its awareness efforts, the country’s forests are disappearing as people choose economic prerogatives over environmental concerns. Miss Headley noted that while the Department had no control over privately-owned lands, designating areas such as the Blue Mountains as protected areas would prevent stress on a number of forested regions.
Meanwhile, Miss Headley informed, the Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF) was assisting the Department’s 70 wardens and foresters to enforce environmental laws. The Department’s legal officer participates in the Force’s training courses, educating officers about legislation relating to the environment.
Schools, individuals and companies wishing to procure seedlings may contact the Department at its offices in Kingston; Folly, Portland; Moneague, St. Ann; St. Catherine and St. James.
Persons requesting seedlings must have legal access to the land to be planted by ownership or through lease. Private companies and individuals provide the manpower for planting of seedlings and the end product is theirs.

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