Tue | Sep 18, 2018

Earth Today | Gov’t takes steps to firm up boundary for Cockpit Country

Published:Thursday | March 1, 2018 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor/ Contributing editor
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

GOVERNMENT HAS made some initial moves to make official the designated boundary for the ecologically sensitive Cockpit Country that was announced last year.

"The Forestry Department has placed advertisements to reach out to the private land owners, so we are starting to take steps to implement the things that the Prime Minister (Andrew Holness) had announced," said Colonel Oral Khan, Chief Technical Director (CTD) in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.

Holness revealed in his presentation to Parliament on the boundary last November that Forestry would provide "a detailed description of the boundary of the Cockpit Country and the Cockpit Country Protected Area as recognised by the State, after consultations with the relevant public sector agencies and the necessary 'ground truthing' - a term used in various fields to refer to information provided by direct observation as opposed to information provided by inference, has been undertaken".

Khan said they are also looking to secure the capital it will require to undertake the ground truthing.

"We have to have detailed information so there will be no doubt as to where the boundaries are. That is going to require a capital outlay and it is going to take some time. We will present what it will cost and then the government will prioritise and we will commence. As soon as the new budget is settled, then they will get the ground truthing under way," the CTD said.

The expectation, according to Khan, is that the state will fund the work, but he noted that development partners may wish to offer support.

Holness announced the boundary last year, to a collective sigh of relief from civil society, including environmen-talists, who had waged a years-long lobby to secure protection for the Cockpit Country - home to several of Jamaica's endemic species, and the source of some 40 per cent of the island's freshwater resources.

The area comprises "approximately 74,726 hectares and will be referred to as the Cockpit Country Protected Area, and will be protected under specific legislation as advised by the attorney general", the PM said at the time.

He added that in coming to a decision, Cabinet had taken account of "the closed, broadleaf forest cover/primary forest, the rich biodiversity, the hydrology and the important historical, cultural sites".

A part from its ecological value, the Cockpit Country, home to the Leeward Maroons, also has significant cultural value and is assessed to hold enormous untapped potential for sustainable tourism.