Project to safeguard protected areas hailed

Friday, March 10, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — A project to strengthen the operational and financial sustainability of Jamaica’s national system of protected areas is being hailed as a success after six years of implementation.
Administered by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), in collaboration with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), the Forestry Department and the Fisheries Division, the project, which started in 2010, aims to safeguard Jamaica’s globally significant biodiversity through the consolidation of the management of the national protected areas system (NPAS).
Speaking with JIS News at a forum to close out the project at The Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston on Tuesday, Director of Environmental Management and Conservation at NEPA, Anthony McKenzie, said the project has effectively set the groundwork for the management of protected areas through the establishment of a framework for sustainable funding.
Financial planning and revenue-generation have been improved through the implementation of the Protected Area Trust Fund and the establishment of a revolving fund. Model site-level business plans and operational plans have also been developed.
“It also established the framework for legislation, seeking to harmonise the approach to protected area management. There are several agencies involved in protected area management... and the project sought to bring them together, so a policy framework was prepared as well as legislation,” McKenzie said.
Among the developments to improve the effectiveness of the management of protected areas are eight new and updated protected area management plans, a monitoring and evaluation system, and a communication strategy to raise awareness of key stakeholders and to build a national constituency to support NPAS.
The project, operating under the theme ‘Protected Areas: an untapped resource for sustaining livelihoods’, was funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) at a cost of US$2.2 million and executed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The project supports the Protected Area System Master Plan 2013-2017, which was approved by Cabinet and tabled in Parliament in February 2016. The Master Plan provides a roadmap to guide the management of protected areas.
Director of Planning, Projects, Evaluation and Research at NEPA, Vivienne Williams Thompson, said awareness about protected areas and the building of linkages, particularly at the community and school levels, were key achievements of the project.
“We have established a solid framework for us to build on to move the country forward, in terms of planning and to encourage Jamaicans to get involved and to strengthen our partnerships,” she said.
“It’s important for us to remember that the work has just begun. It’s a complex area and something that we must look at carefully as a country, to be more strategic and to ensure that we position the protected areas as a resource and as an opportunity for us to build a more sustainable tourism product,” she added.
Jamaica’s policy framework for the NPAS defines a protected area as an area of land or water that is managed for the protection and maintenance of its ecological systems, biodiversity and/or specific natural, cultural or aesthetic resources.
Some of Jamaica’s protected areas are Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, Montego Bay Marine Park, Morant and Pedro Cays, Bull Head Forest Reserves, Cockpit Country Forest Reserve, Portland Bight Protected Area, and Palisadoes – Port Royal Protected Areas.

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