Blue and John Crow Mountains World Heritage Site turns 5

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Blue and John Crow Mountains World Heritage Site turns 5

Thursday, July 02, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica—Tomorrow, Friday, July 3 will mark five years since Jamaica's Blue and John Crow Mountains were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Jamaica Conservation Development Trust (JCDT) will host a ceremony at Holywell to commemorate the event.

The Blue and John Crow Mountains World Heritage Site is the 26,000-hectare core preservation zone within the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. It is an area of closed broadleaf or primary forest, one of the last remaining such areas in the island. 

The national park, so declared in 1993, is just over 41,000 hectares.

It came into the national spotlight a month ago when it was revealed that then minister with oversight for the environment portfolio Daryl Vaz intended to lease a 7.7-acre property that bordered and, in some places, overlapped with the Holywell recreation area.

Vaz subsequently backed out, and the National Land Agency withdrew the lease offer.

JCDT, a non-profit which manages the park on the government's behalf, has highlighted the fact that the Blue and John Crow Mountains is one of only 39 World Heritage Sites inscribed for both its natural and cultural heritage. 

“Most of the over 1,000 properties on the UNESCO World Heritage List are either natural or cultural heritage sites, so a “mixed” property is quite a feat,” the trust said. 

It explained that it took Jamaica over 10 years of work to win the inscription.

“The first nomination to UNESCO in 2011 sought to have the whole area designated as World Heritage. This nomination was deferred and the team had to go back to the drawing board as the whole area is not under good forest cover and in fact, many areas, particularly around Cinchona and west of Holywell, are degraded – covered mainly by Caribbean Pine, Blue Mountain Coffee or invasive grasses,” the JCDT explained.

The NGO outlined other challenges. 

“We did not use tangible or geographical descriptors for the cultural heritage so we had to clearly identify Maroon trails, battle sites and communities, including those which are now only archaeological sites such as Nanny Town. In addition, the Maroon communities had no national protection so the area had to be designated Protected National Heritage in 2014. 

“Finally, the national park does not have a legally defined buffer zone around it – except for some forest reserves and what JCDT refers to as the Community Buffer Zone – an area within 2km of the National Park boundary where we conduct public education and outreach and facilitate sustainable community livelihoods. Hence, we nominated the “crème de la crème” of the Blue and John Crow Mountains – the last remaining primary forest which is also the last resting place of many Maroon Freedom Fighters. 

Sites or properties inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List must be:


  • legally protected sites of outstanding universal value for selected cultural &/or natural criteria;


  • in a well-protected state, with a high level of integrity (usually requiring large size);


  • authentic, particularly with respect to cultural heritage and


  • suitably managed with a legally designated buffer zone.

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