Forestry Department Launches Celebration for 80 Years of GROWTH

(From right) CEO & Conservator of Forests, Marilyn Headley, cutting the anniversary cake along with Managing Director, Environment Solutions Ltd., Eleanor R. Jones; Claire Bernard, Deputy Director General in charge of Sustainable Development and Social Planning, Planning Institute of Jamaica; and Mission Environmental Officer, United States Agency for International Development/Jamaica, Malden Miller.

The Forestry Department has launched a year of activities in commemoration of its eight decades of service to the island of Jamaica. The anniversary celebrations commenced at the Agency’s Biennial Staff Awards held on Friday, December 8 at the Knutsford Hotel, Kingston.

The Anniversary will be celebrated under the theme, “80 years of GROWTH: Safeguarding the Future”. GROWTH is an acronym, which means Guiding our country; Reforesting our landscape; Opportunities abound; Working together with communities; Transferring knowledge; Holistic approaches.

Speaking at the launch, CEO& Conservator of Forests, Ms. Marilyn Headley says she is heartened by the progress the organization has made over the years despite the many challenging moments.

The passing of the Forest Law on December 29, 1937 led to the creation of the Forest Branch in the Lands Department. This step was a move by the government to safeguard the forest resources locally after widespread deforestation had significantly reduced the forest cover. Over the past 80 years, we evolved into the Forest Division in the Department of Agriculture and in 1942, the Forest Department was formed and aligned to the Ministry of Agriculture. In 1996 when the Forest Act was passed, replacing the 1937 legislation, the organization became known as the Forestry Department, emphasizing reforestation, conservation, and greater community participation. In May 2010, the Department was officially designated an Executive Agency, rendering it more customer-focused while striving for greater efficiency and effectiveness in its operations.

“The past 80 years has been defined by a kaleidoscope of happy memories and a few sad ones too; the cultivation of strong friendships and enduring relationships. Of course, there have also been some paths that may have been slightly more difficult to travel. Yet despite the odd stumbling blocks experienced along the way, this organisation still stands after eight decades, stronger, resilient, respected and doing exceptional and extraordinary things locally and internationally,” Ms. Headley said.

To mark the yearlong celebration, the Agency will host Church services across the island on Sunday, January 14 and will launch its Anniversary Mural Competition among secondary and tertiary schools at the end of January.

In March, there will be the first of two Forest Treks, the publication of the Anniversary supplement and a Forest Forum under the theme, “Forests and Sustainable Cities.”

“At the Forest Forum, which will be on International Day of Forests, we will hear from the experts in the field, both locally and internationally, on the impact of forests on some critical areas. It will also feature a panel discussion that will be centered around conservation, disaster mitigation and the economic impact of disasters on our communities,” Ms. Headley noted.  

In April, there will be the Forest Heroes Awards when the Agency recognizes entities and individuals who have made significant contributions to the forest sector and the Organization’s work. The celebrations continue in September as the Agency stages a series of roadshows in various communities across the island to bring the forestry message to the people.

On National Tree Planting Day, which will be observed on Friday, October 5, the Agency will be leading eight major projects islandwide and is inviting companies and individuals to participate and to organize their own projects in support of this national thrust to plant trees. In November, persons will be given another opportunity to experience the beauty and wonders of the forests when a second Forest Trek is held in the Western section of the island.

As the Agency celebrates this milestone anniversary, it recognizes the invaluable contribution of its dedicated staff and partners, who over the years have helped to build the legacy of the Forestry Department and has aided its mission of managing the island’s ‘forests in an effective and responsible manner for the benefit of current and future generations’.