“At last, with an official boundary and no threat of mining, the Cockpit Country has a chance of joining the Blue and John Crow Mountains as another mixed World Heritage Site” remarked Dr. Susan Otuokon, Executive Director of the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT) – manager of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park and World Heritage Site. In response to the recent announcement by the Prime Minister on the Cockpit Country, Dr. Otuokon stated that the JCDT would like to see more active, focused and strategic management of the new protected area which extends and consolidates existing Forest Reserves. She noted that a protected area is not simply about marking a boundary on a map but critically, implementing conservation, education and sustainable livelihoods work on the ground.
Management of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park has involved the Maroon and other local communities living around the boundary in efforts to improve the environmental and economic sustainability of their livelihoods, particularly in agriculture and tourism. Several projects have been implemented which have strengthened the provision of recreational and tourism opportunities, particularly within Maroon communities. For example, two communities which had participated in such projects were
recently funded under the Jamaica Social Investment Fund’s Rural Economic Development Initiative.
Tourism is generating increasing income with the inscription of the National Park’s Preservation Zone as a World Heritage Site in 2015.
Dr. Otuokon stated that during the inscription process, there were constant questions about the status of the Cockpit Country – recognising the likely global significance of the site. Many people do not understand that whilst there are similarities between the two sites e.g. the Maroon communities, there are significant geological, hydrological and ecological differences. Both the Blue and John Crow Mountains and the Cockpit Country must be protected from mining as it is not an appropriate activity for these areas. Retaining the
natural forest cover of these two areas is not only essential for biodiversity conservation and water supply source protection but of increasing importance to ensure our resilience in the face of climate change.
The Blue & John Crow Mountain National Park will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2018 and the JCDT was involved in planning for and managing the 41,000-hectare site since 1989. JCDT stands ready to support the team designated with the responsibility to prepare the management plans and ultimately manage the Cockpit Country Protected Area in whatever way we can, given our experience and history in this area.