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Land cleared close to the Kings Hill Forest reserve

Land cleared close to the Kings Hill Forest reserve

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Persons owning land close to forest reserves are being advised to contact the Forestry Department before attempting to develop the land.{{more}}

Acting director of Forestry Fitzgerald Providence, in an interview on Wednesday, said that his department is willing to work with landowners to develop such parcels of land, so that the development does not have a serious impact on the forest.

“You don’t have to clear a piece of land to develop it,” Providence said.

Providence’s comments came following enquiry from SEARCHLIGHT about a clearing which had been observed in the area of the Kings Hill Forest, in the south of mainland St Vincent.

The director said the Forestry Department had received several queries, including one from the Minister of Agriculture, about the clearing in the forested area. He said most people assumed that the clearing had been made in the reserve area of the Kings Hill Forest, which is protected by law.

The Forestry Department had investigated the matter, Providence said, and determined that the area which had been cleared was not within the reserve.

“It’s private land… our legislation does not dictate what you do on private land,” he said.

However, because the land which had been cleared falls on the boundary of the reserve, forestry officials would ideally like these areas to be kept in their forested state, for the integrity of the reserve.

Providence said there has been a loud outcry from members of the community and he would like community members, as stewards of the forest, to try to convince land users around Kings Hill to try to keep the land in forest, instead of cutting down trees and encroaching on the forest.

“We have been monitoring the forest boundary area, because there are some critical areas where persons have private land and it comes right up to the boundary. But you want to have a buffer between the forest and the private land …”

Providence said in years gone by, the Kings Hill area, all the way to the coast was very green.

“But we are losing that, because of housing development in the area,” he said.

The director said they are able to maintain the forest in the reserve, but they do not have the same authority over forested areas close to the reserve, which are private lands.

He said his department has spoken with the person who cleared the land in the Kings Hill area, and they were told the person is going to use it to keep animals.

Providence is, however, of the opinion that the terrain of that area does not make it conducive to any use, other than forestry.

He said the old Kings Hill Enclosure Act put the responsibility of maintaining the reserve boundary on the persons owning land in the area. The new Forest Resource Conservation Act, however, just has the Kings Hill Forest listed as a reserve.

“What we would try to do is improve the regulations in this new Act, so that it has things like maintaining the forested area; if you have a boundary with the reserve, you can’t cut it,” Providence said.

“We try to monitor it as closely as possible.”

Providence, however, commended the public for their alertness, which he said is a sign that the department’s public awareness campaigns have been working. He said on the other hand, some may feel that the department is not being a good custodian of the forest.

“When people think of Kings Hill, they think of everything,” Providence said.

“But there are private lands all around, and these lands have been changing in terms of use,” he said.

The King’s Hill Forest is the oldest Forest Reserve in St Vincent and the second oldest in the Western Hemisphere. It was established in 1791 to “attract the clouds and rain” and thus provide rain for surrounding areas that were otherwise dry and windswept. The natural vegetation of the area is Dry Woodland forest and soils are generally light and sandy. With an elevation of 600 feet, it provides a habitat for protected wildlife, and a home for more than 26 identified species of tropical trees and shrubs.

When the Act was passed in 1791, it was recognised as being remarkable, as it was based on a novel climatic theory, that deforestation might cause rainfall decline.

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