A man has been ordered to pay fines and complete community service after he pled guilty to illegally cutting trees in a protected area and using a chainsaw in a protected area.
Mr. Luke Cole of a Golden Spring address in St. Andrew was sentenced on Friday, September 1, 2016 when the matter was called up in the Half Way Tree Resident Magistrate’s Court. Her Honour, Parish Judge for Kingston and St. Andrew, Ms. Judith Pusey fined Mr. Cole $100,000 or six months each for cutting trees in a forest reserve without a license and using a chainsaw in a forest reserve without a licence. He was also sentenced to 100 hours of community service, which is to be used to plant at least 50 trees.
Mr. Cole was arrested and charged for the offences in July 2016 after he was caught in the act in the Hermitage Block of an area declared as a forest reserve and officially gazetted as Water Commission Lands (Blue Mountain Area). Under the Forest Act, Section 30 (1996), offenders can be fined up to $500,000 and sentenced to two years in prison for cutting trees in a forest reserve without a licence.
Mr. Sean Munroe, Acting Enforcement Manager at the Forestry Department, said Mr. Cole’s arrest and the seizure of just under 300 pieces of Blue Mahoe lumber resulted from a joint effort between the Agency and personnel from the National Water Commission (NWC). “We were made aware of the illegal activities by NWC personnel as the cutting took place just above the Hermitage Dam which is operated by the Commission. Following the report, we visited the area where we saw Mahoe stumps and approximately 250 pieces of converted lumber. The actual seizure which took place on July 6 and 7, 2016 was a coordinated effort as the boards had to be transported across the dam using rafts. A total of 293 pieces of Blue Mahoe lumber were seized, valued at over $270, 000,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Munroe said that the Agency’s enforcement team will remain vigilant and will continue to clamp down on persons who breach the Forest Act (1996) and Regulations (2001). “We also want to remind the public that a chainsaw licence is required to use the equipment to cut trees and convert them to lumber for commercial purposes. This applies to both private lands and lands managed by the Forestry Department. Therefore, we are encouraging members of the public who do not have a licence to contact us to become regularized. If they continue to operate illegally, they will be made to feel the weight of the law,” Mr. Munroe said.
The Forestry Department is also 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 are not required to provide their names or contact information when making reports.