Government announces Cockpit Country boundary

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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After years of contention between Government and conservationists over controversial bauxite mining in the Cockpit Country, Government yesterday announced that it has adopted a boundary for the expansive broadleaf forest sited primarily in the parish of Trelawny.

In an address to Parliament, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said Cabinet has adopted the Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr (2005) boundary.

His announcement follows a brief stand-off with Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), which agitated through an online petition for the boundary to be defined. The petition was submitted late September with some 20,000 signatures, more than the 15,000 required minimum. But with no response from Jamaica House more than a month later, JET issued an open letter to the PM requesting action.

In Parliament yesterday, Holness said that in arriving at the decision for the Cockpit Country boundary, the Government has shown its commitment to preserving this unique national treasure for the benefit of present and future generations of Jamaicans and visitors alike.

Further, he said protection of the forests plays an important role in the country's climate change mitigation strategy by serving as a sink for greenhouse gases and will inform the country's Nationally Determined Contributions as well as assist in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Holness also announced boundaries for the Cockpit Country Protected Area. It will include existing forest reserves, significant hydrological and ecological features, and cultural and heritage sites. It covers approximately 74,726 hectares and will be protected under specific legislation as advised by the attorney general.

“The goal of defining the boundary is to ensure forest conservation, protection of biodiversity, preservation and improvement of traditional livelihoods, and the creation of new economic opportunities from heritage, health and wellness tourism and eco-tourism,” the prime minister declared.

The prime minister's announcement in Parliament follows wide and extensive consultations with experts, stakeholders and conservationists.

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