Mon | May 27, 2024

Inclusive and transparent governance for forest management

Published:Friday | April 12, 2024 | 12:05 AM


On March 21, the prime Minister announced in his Budget speech that the Government of Jamaica, under the Forest Act, plans to designate 23 parcels of crown lands as forest reserves or forest management areas for the fiscal year 2024-25. While this declaration is welcomed as a positive step towards environmental conservation, the Coalition for Forests expresses concern over the lack of consultation with non-government stakeholders actively involved in the management of existing forest areas.

Comprising 27 diverse civil society organisations engaged at national and local levels in forest conservation, management, and restoration, the Coalition for Forests seeks to promote democracy by fostering citizen engagement in forest decision-making processes. Further, the coalition endeavours to increase the allocation of public and private resources benefiting forests and forest-dependent communities.

The forest policy for Jamaica emphasises the importance of clear coordination among various sectors regarding land use and natural resource management. It states that there should be collaboration between the Forestry Department and relevant stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations and local forest management committees, to effectively manage forest reserves and management areas. Additionally, the policy states that this collaboration is also important to enhance the integrity of declared forest reserves and forest management areas and designate new reserves and management areas in biodiversity hotspots.

Therefore, while appreciative of the announcement regarding new forest reserves and management areas, the Coalition for Forests asserts that meaningful engagement should have taken place prior to this announcement. The lack of consultation raises concerns about transparency and inclusivity in the decision-making processes. Consequently, the coalition seeks additional information on the 23 parcels and is willing to meet with the Government to discuss further, while we encourage prioritising stakeholder involvement in future forest management initiatives.