Cockpit Country Communities Raise Concerns About Protected Area


Earlier today, I was talking to a friend about outstanding concerns relating to the Cockpit Country boundaries. By the time I got home, coincidentally, the following press release from Jamaica Environment Trust had landed in my inbox. It’s very important to have this direct feedback from the communities affected, and this detailed response shows that there are several issues to be addressed. The key concern is that since the Prime Minister’s declaration eight months ago (see the link for the text), the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) has not yet been gazetted into law. There remains much work to be done. 

Cockpit Country’s Maroon residents listen intently at a press briefing with the Cockpit Country stakeholders. They had been lobbying Government officials in Kingston, in November 2015. (My photo)

Please see below:

July 10, 2018

COCKPIT COUNTRY COMMUNITIES RAISE CONCERNS ABOUT PROTECTED AREA 

Under their new project aimed at advancing the protection of Jamaica’s Cockpit Country, the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) has met with Cockpit Country communities to gather their feedback on the Prime Minister’s November 2017 announcement to Parliament of the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) boundary and the Government of Jamaica’s (GOJ) intention to close it to mining. During the recent Cockpit Country community meetings, which were held in Gibraltar, St Ann on June 28 and Elderslie, St Elizabeth on July 5, JET presented a summary of the Prime Minister’s announcement and maps of the designated CCPA which we received through an Access to Information (ATI) request to the Forestry Department (FD). The presentation was followed by a discussion on what the designation of the CCPA could mean for communities located inside or outside its boundary, during which community members asked questions and voiced their concerns.  

On behalf of the Cockpit Country community members present at the Gibraltar and Elderslie meetings, JET outlines the following concerns related to the declaration of the CCPA:

  1. Generally, there has been an absence of information on the CCPA provided to Cockpit Country communities by the GOJ. No one present at either the Elderslie or Gibraltar meeting had knowledge of any GOJ outreach to discuss what the Prime Minister’s announcement about the CCPA will mean for their communities. In Elderslie, half of the people present at the meeting were unaware that an announcement regarding Cockpit Country had been made by the Prime Minister. Communities want more information on the CCPA and its implications.
  2. Community members felt their feedback during Cockpit Country stakeholder consultations had not been considered in declaring the CCPA boundary. Despite these consultations, residents felt that a top-down approach had been used by the GOJ to determine the boundary. Community members are concerned that this top-down approach will also be used to develop the management plan for CCPA.
  3. No detailed spatial information on the CCPA boundary has been provided to Cockpit Country communities by the GOJ. Using the maps provided by the FD to JET it is difficult to know where precisely the CCPA boundary is likely to fall on the ground. Communities very close to the boundary, e.g. Madras, St Ann, and Elderslie, St Elizabeth, are not certain whether their community is inside or outside the designated protected area. Communities want a clearer understanding of their position in relation to the CCPA boundary.
  4. A clearer understanding of the timeline for completion of the ground-truthing∗ of the CCPA boundary is needed. Communities want to know when ground-truthing will be done in their area and how long the entire process is expected to take. FD representatives present at the Elderslie meeting on July 5 told those present that the first section of the boundary to be ground-truthed is the stretch from Troy to Jackson Town. They stated that this area was being prioritized for completion in the 2018/19 financial year due to the bauxite interests operating near the boundary. The FD representatives were unable to say when the remainder of the ground-truthing exercise would take place but told the meeting that the two-year estimate provided by their department at the start of 2018 had not changed. Residents expressed the desire to see the finalized “ground-truthed” boundary before the CCPA is gazetted into law.
  5. The expansion of bauxite mining into new areas near the CCPA boundary. Residents of Gibraltar and Barnstaple in St Ann – two communities which have been left out of the CCPA – expressed grave concerns about the expansion of bauxite mining activities in their area. At a meeting in Gibraltar in March 2018, representatives of New Day Jamaica Bauxite told residents of Gibraltar and its environs about the company’s intent to expand bauxite mining in that area in the direction of Richmond Pen, Hopewell, and Belmont, St Ann. This is of particular concern to residents because of the anticipated threat from the proposed bauxite mining to the community’s water supply, public health, historical sites, livelihoods and food security. Residents also fear that bauxite will negatively impact the groundwater in the area, which supplies several North coast rivers, including the Rio Bueno in Trelawny.

At the Elderslie meeting, concerns were raised regarding bauxite prospecting activities which had recently taken place in Elderslie, St Elizabeth; it remains unclear whether Elderslie is inside or outside the designated boundary.

At both meetings, JET proposed that a buffer zone is established around the CCPA and this area also be closed to mining. JET also recommended a moratorium be placed on mining and prospecting within the CCPA whilst the ground-truthing of the boundary takes place. Community members were in agreement with these JET proposals.

At the Elderslie meeting FD representatives indicated that discussions had recently taken place within the GOJ and its agencies regarding the amendment of bauxite mining and prospecting licenses to exclude areas which intersect the designated CCPA boundary; however, no timeline could be given as to when changes would officially be made.

A view across Cockpit Country – a huge water resource, rich in biodiversity. (Photo: Labrish Jamaica)

JET is concerned whether mining and/or prospecting is permitted within and close to the designated boundary under existing licenses while ground-truthing is being done.

6.  More clarity is needed on what activities (other than mining) are likely to be restricted in the CCPA once it has been gazetted. There is a concern that the establishment of the CCPA will restrict economic activity within its boundary and infringe on landowners’ rights to enjoyment of property. Residents of Accompong also noted that sections of the protected area cover maroon-occupied territory and are concerned about the possible implications for their community.

JET would also like to add to the list of concerns, our dissatisfaction with the seemingly slow pace of the CCPA boundary ground-truthing process. Although the Prime Minister has announced the GOJ’s intention to close the CCPA to mining, this cannot be done until the boundary has been ground-truthed and gazetted into law. During our meeting in Elderslie, FD representatives indicated that only 20 kilometres of the designated CCPA boundary in the vicinity of Troy have been assessed by their field staff to date. Ground markers for that 20km section of boundary have been proposed by the FD, but these are yet to be confirmed by a certified land surveyor – a necessary step in the ground-truthing process. Although FD indicated that they are in discussions with the National Land Agency (NLA) to identify and contract a certified land surveyor to assist in the ground-truthing process, no timeline could be provided by their representatives as to when this would be done.

JET and the communities of Cockpit Country call on the GOJ to address the concerns listed above and provide an updated timeline for when the CCPA will be declared under the law.

Save Cockpit Country

Signed

Jamaica Environment Trust

Suzanne Stanley, CEO – (876) 470-7580

Terri-Ann Guyah, Legal Director – (876) 461-9440

Diana McCaulay, Chairman – (876) 469-1315

Windsor Research Centre

Susan Koenig – (876) 997-3832

Cockpit Country Community Contacts

Ivy Walton, Gibraltar, St. Ann – (876) 824-7681

Linsford Hamilton, Madras, St. Ann – (876) 919-8375

John Gordon, Cambridge, St. James – (876) 586-8778

Clavie Johnson, Principal at the Elderslie Primary & Junior High, St Elizabeth – (876) 334-7770

Linsford Hamilton of Madras, St. Ann, speaking at the November 2015 meeting in Kingston: “Money is a catching thing…This is land given to us by God. If we destroy creation, we destroy ourselves.” (My photo)

 Community members present at meeting at St Paul’s Baptist Church, Gibraltar, St Ann on Thursday, June 28, 2018

Gibraltar

Ivy Walton, Rosetta Nelson, Rose Marie Higgins, Robert Clarke, Vincent Richards, Fitroy Smith, Nadine Ruddock Gibbs, Keteisha Miller Downie, Devono Clarke, Christopher Campbell, Denrick Atkinson, Rashane Christie, Livery Rowe, Khalia Higgins, Leller Laster, Linsford Hamilton, Allan McFarlane, Delosse Higgins, Stephen Walton, Andrae Brown, Lloyd Moulton, Theodolph McLeod, Vinnel Pryce, Lensford Gibbs, Jermaine Afflick, Merissa Higgins, Jacqueline Collins, Omar Codner, Javel Lawrence.

Barnstaple

David Fletcher, Lowland Fletcher, Christopher Smith, Aaron Johnson, James Simpson.

Caledonia

Clarkeland Sawyers, Karl Sawyers.

Community members present at meeting at Elderslie Primary, Elderslie, St Elizabeth on Thursday, July 5, 2018

Elderslie

Latoya Wallace, Latoya Parchment, Natoya Smith Reid, Carlton Francis, Geddes Dixon, Clavie Johnson, Jenita Hanson, Atasha Hanson, Paulette Newsome, Marvylin Salmon, Kandie Dick, Denise Brooks, Nicole Brooks, Lois Johnson, Shanoya Sanderson, suzette Martin, Picksy Waite, Melissa Campbell, Cleair Wright, Melane Smith-Dunn, Sharon Smith, Naomi Smith.

Accompong

Norma Rowe-Edwards, Robert Cawley, Vivian Salmon.

Arcadia

Yanique Wright.

Jointwood

Simone Parchment, Christopher Brown, Andrea Brown, Bertie Dunn, Romane Baker.

∗ A note on ground-truthing:  Ground-truthing is essentially the on-the-ground verification of what is drawn on a map – in this case, the designated boundary. For the Cockpit Country Protected Area, it will involve a team from the Forestry Department and surveyors “walking the line” of the boundary, verifying spatial information (latitude, longitude, distances, area) and placing physical markers at intervals to delimit the area. It is a time consuming, but necessary part of the process.

Maroon and British burial site in Cockpit Country. (Photo: Ted Lee Ebanks)

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