GIS:-The Forests and Lands Department has Devised an Inclusive Forest Preservation Plan.
Saint Lucia’s Forests and Lands Department is implementing initiatives that aim to protect the island’s forest reserves and simultaneously allow landowners to benefit economically.
Karl Augustine, Research Officer in the Forests and Lands Department, said the plan encourages the productive use of forested lands while preserving endemic species.
“These are exciting times for the Forestry Department,” he said. “Two years ago, we completed a strategic ten-year plan. We found that we needed strategic guidance as to how we approach our forests. The plan brought about a shift in how natural resources were managed, and suggested ways in which we can bring more tangible benefits beyond just the ecological services of the forests, and transfer them to ordinary Saint Lucians who may own private forests or may be users of forested crown lands.”
The plan involves a holistic approach to forest management, that takes both privately-owned and dry forests, and the rainforest reserve into account.
“One of the things coming out of that strategic plan is that we’re looking at forests globally. Usually when you hear forest, it makes you think of the forest reserve; however, we noticed that there is a lot of forest outside of the forest reserve and in some cases where there are a lot of biodiversity hotspots in dry forests. Most of these are in the hands of private individuals, some in the form of large plantations. So we’re looking at forests in general and not just the forest reserve.”
In order to encourage private landowners’ preservation efforts, the Forests and Lands Department sought ways in which conservation would also result in tangible economic benefits.
“The question that we had is how do we build resilience in those lands? But we also recognized that one of the main drivers of changing land use is economics, so we thought that if we marry the need for livelihoods for private landowners and have them make money from their land while it remains under forest cover, then they are less likely to change the use of it, like clear it for a certain cash crop or for infrastructural development.”
Mr. Augustine added that the department is developing solutions that are symbiotic.
“While we appreciate the increase for ecological capacity and the support it can have for wildlife, we recognize the fact that we need to ensure that these lands also contribute economically towards livelihoods and the development of the island. So we are looking at activities that are consistent with keeping the forest cover and diversity that we have, but to utilize them productively.”