Minister Vaz Urges Jamaicans to take Action to Prevent Forest and Biodiversity Loss

The plaque that has been erected in the Dolphin Head forest reserve to mark its dedication to the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy.

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz, has lauded the dedication of the Dolphin Head forest reserve to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy (QCC) stating that he hopes it will provide the necessary call to action to all citizens to prevent any further loss of forest cover and biodiversity.

The Dolphin Head forest reserve was officially dedicated to the QCC on Saturday, July 8 during a ceremony at the reserve in Hanover. The ceremony also included the visit of the Queen’s Baton as it travels around the commonwealth on its way to the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, in 2018.

The Minister, in a speech delivered by CEO & Conservator of Forests, Ms. Marilyn Headley, stated that the island’s forests face competing and often conflicting demands which are not likely to diminish in the future, when even more persons will be sharing the island and its limited resources. He is therefore urging the public to be the eyes and ears of the forests to ensure all activities in these areas are carried out sustainably.

“The key is to use our forests sustainably.  If we do so and also manage them for both economic and social benefits, the contribution of the forest sector to our Gross Domestic Product could increase tremendously. The government cannot do it alone and we need the input of the citizens as we work to address our challenges and promote our sustainable development goals,” he said.

Minister Vaz further stated that Jamaica is walking a fine line between economic development and the preservation of areas like the Dolphin Head Forest Reserve.  However, he says we must realize that there is real value in preserving our natural heritage including our forest reserves.

“It was this recognition that prompted the Government of Jamaica to start declaring Forest Reserves from as far back as the 1950’s.  Our forests provide a wide range of goods and services that create opportunities for development and for improving the well-being of all Jamaicans.  For instance, now that the Dolphin Head Forest Reserve has a Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy designation, I see even greater value in eco-tourism in this area which is one of the global growth areas in tourism,” he noted.

Meanwhile, the Conservator of Forests has welcomed the dedication of the reserve noting that she hopes it will help to raise awareness within Jamaica of the value of forests and the importance of saving them for future generations.

The QCC is a unique network of forest conservation initiatives, which involves all 52 countries of the Commonwealth. It was designed to highlight the best examples of forest management throughout the Commonwealth.

In August 2016, the Government of Jamaica, upon the recommendation of the Forestry Department, nominated the Dolphin Head Forest Reserve as Jamaica’s entry to be a part of the QCC.

The nomination was accepted and in November 2016, Her Majesty The Queen hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace in England where Jamaica was among 20 countries that received certificates confirming that they were official partners of the QCC initiative.

The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy was conceived by the Right Honourable Frank Field MP and was launched by Her Majesty The Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta in 2015.