Caption: Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Mr. Robert Pickersgill quiz the students of Westphalia All Age about what they learnt at the function. This was at the launch of the Westphalia LFMC on September 12 at the Westphalia Church of God of Prophecy. Noel Bennett (left), Rural Sociologist for the Eastern Zone at the Forestry Department looks on.

Jamaica to get Forest Fire Management Plan

Jamaica will soon have its own Forest Fire Management Programme as attempts are to stem the continued loss of key forest resources due to forest fires.

Over the past three years there have been 45 forest fires destroying about 57 hectares of forest. To curtail the loss, the Forestry Department assisted by the United States Forest Service is drafting the programme to guide the island’s response to forest fires.

Honourable Robert Pickersgill, Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change announced the drafting of the policy, while speaking at the launch of the Westphalia Local Forest Management Committee (LFMC) on Wednesday, September 12.

“In terms of Forest Fire Management Project a team from the United States Forest Service is on the ground doing preliminary field work to carry out the drafting of a programme for fire management services,” he said.

The establishment of the fire programme is part of the Forestry Department’s activities under the European Union Funded Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction project, which is presently being implemented.

The Forest Fire Management Programme seeks to help to reduce the incidences of forest fires as well as the resultant health impacts and CO2 emissions. The Forest Fire Management Programme involves the development of a comprehensive plan, which includes the mapping areas most at risk for forest fires, the installation of fire break mechanisms, and the conducting of training workshops on forest fire management and activities geared at raising public awareness about forest fires.

In addition to the development of the fire management plan, Minister Pickersgill noted that additional areas are being improved under the project. “Since its inception in October 2010 to date, a total of 248 hectares have been planted in several of these watershed areas. In addition, the selection of 2,600 crown lands to be declared as forest reserve and forest management areas have been completed and a review is currently underway,” he said.

The launch of the Westphalia LFMC is also a part of the project implementation and seeks to increase the resilience of the community and reduce the risks associated with natural hazards. This involves reducing downstream runoff by rehabilitating and improving the management of selected watersheds and raising public awareness.

The Westphalia LFMC will now be partners with the Forestry Department in managing the Forest resources in proximity to the community while being able to engage in income earning opportunities such as agro-forestry, eco-tourism, bee-keeping and honey production.

In encouraging the residents to actively protect the forests so the next generation can benefit, Minister Pickersgill told the residents to tell others. “My charge is that you spread the word to your neighbours, friends and indeed relatives about the importance of our trees and forests to our survival. We must all do our part to ensure that Jamaica remains the land of wood and water,” he said.

The EU project is being implemented jointly with the National Environment and Planning Agency, the Environment Management Division of the Ministry of Environment and the Meteorological Service. The United Nations Environment Programme and the Planning Institute of Jamaica jointly manage the implementation of the project.

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For more information, please contact:

Public Relations and Corporate Communication Branch
Forestry Department
173 Constant spring Road
Kingston 8
Tel: (876) 924 - 2667/8