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Earth Today | JET to follow legalisation process for Cockpit Country boundary

Published:Wednesday | July 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor/ Contributing editor
A section of Jamaica's Cockpit Country, which is itself rich in endemic species.
Suzanne Stanley

THE JAMAICA Environment Trust (JET) is to follow the legalisation of the boundary for the island's biodiversity-rich and culturally significant Cockpit Country, and have launched a project to help the public keep pace.

Dubbed 'Advancing the Protection of Jamaica's Cockpit Country', the project is focused on citizen engagement and public participation around the process towards the official declaration of the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness last year.

His announcement followed a years-long lobby from environmental stakeholders intent on the conservation of the area.

Now, JET Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Stanley insists stakeholders must see the process through.

"We don't want it to drop off the radar of the communities in Cockpit Country. We want people to understand the designation and that it hasn't been written into law yet. We also want people to continue engaging with the process," she said.

"It is about public participation and raising awareness and keeping people informed of the issue, and ensuring there is transparency around the whole process," Stanley added.

Community engagement a key feature of new project

The Advancing the Protection of Jamaica's Cockpit Country project entails community meetings in Cockpit Country, meetings between govern-ment stakeholders, civil society and Cockpit Country communities, GIS mapping and public education on the Cockpit Country boundary.

"We are not just encouraging public participation from the local communities, but from the broader Jamaican society. This is an issue of national importance, national significance," said Suzanne Stanley, chief executive officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust.

The first community meeting was held in Gibraltar, St Ann, on June 28, and attracted more than 40 participants.

"Gibraltar residents are very concerned about what being left out of the CCPA will mean for them; the bauxite company is mining on their doorstep and is inching closer and closer to the town," the Jet boss said from discussions at that meeting.

The next meeting is being held in Elderslie, St Elizabeth, today.

"That should be a very big meeting. We are hoping government stakeholders will join us. The communities really want to know where the boundary is; there hasn't been much detail provided," Stanley said.

"People want to know when the ground truthing is going to take place in their area, what it will entail, whether there is some way they can assist in the process, and when they anticipate it will end," she noted.

Marilyn Headley, head of the Forestry Department, which is tasked with marshalling the ground truth process, told The Gleaner in March that they were looking to provide a detailed description of the announced boundary within two years, adding, in reference to the task, "what we know for sure is that we are starting in this new financial year".




At the time, forest resource Information Management Manager Alicia Edwards also explained the process of gathering ground truth.

"Ground truth is empirical evidence that you collect on the ground as against what you deduce from any in-house system or process, such as a drawing on the computer or other data that does not show what is happening now," she said.

"When we are at that step (ground truth), we would have actually set up base stations and surveying equipment to actually establish monuments (markers used by surveyors to mark the boundary for any enclosed feature being captured, such as a land parcel) along the boundary," she said.

"We would mark it until we have completed the legally identified boundary that would be referred to as the Cockpit boundary from a legal perspective," Edwards said further.