The Forestry Department has seized 855 pieces of Blue Mahoe lumber valued at more than $600,000 in the Fergis Ramsay Forest Reserve in St. Ann, making it the Agency’s second largest lumber haul since January 2010.
Enforcement Manager in the Legal and Enforcement Division of the Agency, Damart Williams, said that the seizure was made after Forest Rangers assigned to the area responded to a report of illegal cutting in the Forest Reserve. He said the Rangers along with two (2) District Constables from the Moneague Police Station visited the area and upon investigation, discovered several pieces of Blue Mahoe lumber, a power saw, containers of fuel and a makeshift bed inside a shed. He said the illegal cutting was evidenced by a number of tree stumps, sawdust and slabs in the Forest Reserve.
“Two persons have since been arrested in connection with the illegal cutting of trees. The men have been charged under section 30 of the Forest Act (1996), and were each given $50,000 station bail. Both men are scheduled to appear in the Claremont Resident Magistrate’s Court in St. Ann, early January 2016. If convicted, both men could each face a fine of up to $500,000 and/ imprisonment exceeding not two years,” Mr. Williams said.
This seizure follows a recent one in the Lucky Valley Forest Estate in St. Andrew where over 500 pieces of Water Oak lumber valued at more than $110,000 were seized. Mr. Williams noted that a man was taken in and was questioned regarding the seizure but was later released. The Agency continues to work with the Bull Bay Police in relation to this matter.
In the meantime, the Agency has increased the level of monitoring and patrolling in all Forest Estates with the aim of deterring individuals who may wish to carry out illegal cutting or other illicit activities. “The Agency wishes to remind persons that it is illegal to remove timber and other forest produce from Forest Reserves or Forest Management Areas without the proper permit and licence. The Agency will continue to prosecute individuals who persist in carrying out illegal and illicit activities in these legally protected areas. Such individuals will be made to feel the full force of the law,” Mr. Williams said.
The Forestry Department is encouraging citizens to utilize its toll free hotline, 1-888-FORESTS (367-3787), to report any illicit or illegal activities that may be occurring in a forest estate. All information provided will be handled with the strictest of confidence, and persons will not be required to provide their names or addresses.