The Forestry Department has increased its level of monitoring and patrolling in the Lucky Valley Forest Estate in St. Andrew with the aim of deterring individuals who may wish to carry out illegal cutting or other illicit activities. This follows the recent seizure of approximately five hundred and five (505) pieces of lumber in the area.
Enforcement Manager in the Legal and Enforcement Division of the Agency, Damart Williams, said the seizure represents the Agency’s second largest lumber haul since January 2010 and resulted from a report that was made to the Division on August 26. The seizure is estimated to be valued at over one hundred and eleven thousand dollars ($111,000).
Mr. Williams said that subsequent to the report, a team from the Agency made their first visit to the site on August 28, “after trekking for approximately 2.5 kilometers in the Forest Estate, the group came across pieces of lumber, which appeared to have been recently converted. The group began the process of placing them in a central location but further checks revealed that substantially more lumber was present which required additional labour. ”
Given the volatility of communities surrounding the Forest Estate and to prevent any violent confrontation with residents, the aid of the police was sought for subsequent visits. A contingent of police officers from the Bull Bay Police Station accompanied Forest Rangers into the area on August 29 where additional pieces of lumber were discovered.
“On a subsequent visit to the site, a man claiming ownership of the seized items was taken into custody and questioned but was later released as there was no evidence to suggest that he was responsible for the activities. This was also followed by his later insistence that he played no part in the cutting and conversion of the trees. We are working closely with the Bull Bay police to investigate the matter to bring it to some conclusion,” Mr. Williams said.
The seizure operations took over a week to be completed as a result of the remote location of the site, the terrain of the area and the weight of the lumber.
Mr. Williams said that following a final assessment, the Agency decided to sell the items to recover some of the costs associated with the removal of the lumber from the Forest Estate.
In the meantime, persons are being reminded that it is illegal to remove timber and forest produce from a forest estate without the proper permit and licence.
Under the Forest Act (1996), persons found in breach of this law could face a maximum fine of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) or imprisonment not exceeding 2 years and under the Forest Regulations (2001), fine include fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) and one year imprisonment.