Holness announces boundaries for Cockpit Country

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Prime Minister Andrew Holness today announced in Parliament the areas to be designated as the boundary for the Cockpit Country and the Cockpit Country Protected Area.

Holness said Cabinet has adopted the Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr (2005) boundary.

Meanwhile, the protected area will include existing forest reserves, significant hydrological and ecological features and cultural and heritage sites. This area comprises approximately 74,726 hectares and will be referred to as the Cockpit Country Protected Area and will be protected under specific legislation as advised by the attorney general.

“The goal of defining the boundary is to ensure forest conservation, protection of biodiversity, preservation and improvement of traditional livelihoods, and the creation of new economic opportunities from heritage, health and wellness tourism and eco-tourism,” the prime minister declared.

Holness also announced that no mining will be permitted in the Cockpit Country Protected Area. In this regard, the Mining Act and any existing mining licences will be amended to close these areas to mining.

“The Government is of the view that this area is too valuable in terms of its ecological and hydrological importance and uniqueness to allow mining which may result in permanent and irreversible harm and deprive future generations of the benefit of this national asset. While we will forego the extraction of millions of tonnes of high grade bauxite and limestone with potential earnings of billions of United States dollars, we cannot put a price tag on the loss to our water resources and biodiversity,” he explained.

The prime minister also announced that the Cabinet has decided to extend the existing Cockpit Country, Litchfield-Matheson's Run, and the Fyffe and Rankine Forest Reserves to take in the broadleaf forests which are in close proximity.

Holness pointed out that protection of these forests play an important role in the country's climate change mitigation strategy by serving as a sink for greenhouse gases and will inform the country's Nationally Determined Contributions as well as assist the country in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals which reference climate change, life on land, clean water and sanitation.

In relation to the historical and cultural sites within the area, the prime minister said the ministry with responsibility for culture as well as the Jamaica National Heritage Trust have advised that sufficient safeguards exist under the Jamaica National Heritage Trust Act to protect such sites and artefacts in the area.

He pointed out that in arriving at the decision for the Cockpit Country boundary, the Government has shown its commitment to preserving this unique national treasure for the benefit of present and future generations of Jamaicans and visitors alike.

“We acknowledge that there may be differing views, however, in a true spirit of partnership to ensure that our current actions secure the future for the generations to come. We look forward to the renewed sense of responsibility and continued active participation in the sustainability of Jamaica land we love,” he said.

The prime minister's announcement in Parliament follows wide and extensive consultations with experts, stakeholders and conservationists, and comes after agitation from Jamaica Environment Trust which submitted an online petition titled Save Cockpit Country to the Prime Minister' Office.

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