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Earth Today | Stakeholder meeting coming on legalisation of Cockpit Country boundary

Published:Wednesday | October 10, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A section of the Cockpit Country Reserve in Trelawny.

THE JAMAICA Environment Trust (JET) is to host a national stakeholder meeting under the project 'Advancing the Protection of Jamaica's Cockpit Country' in Kingston on October 25. This is as it follows the legalisation of the boundary for the island's biodiversity-rich and culturally significant 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 November.

"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," JET boss Suzanne Stanley said earlier this year.

Among other things, the initiative involves meetings with community actors from inside the Cockpit Country and with government stakeholders, as well as GIS mapping and public education on the boundary.

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

Since then, JET has had one other meeting in Elderslie and subsequently issued a joint statement with communities calling on Government to safeguard transparency and accountability for the ground truth being done to inform the boundary.

Ground truth, as explained by a representative of the Forestry Department, "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".

"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," the representative added.

"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," the representative said further.

At the upcoming meeting in Kingston, Stanley said the hope is that participants will be updated on the progress over the last few months.

"This meeting is bringing community leaders together with national players, representatives of government agencies and so on, to discuss where we are and where we need to go and the timelines as well," she told The Gleaner.

"We want to be involved and it is important that we have broad stakeholder participation in this process and that each understand what the other is doing," Stanley added.