Jamaica Environment Trust

Finishing the Race: Securing Protection of Jamaica’s Cockpit Country and Beyond-2022

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Cockpit Country is a unique landscape in Central Jamaica which spans the parishes of St. Ann, St. James, Trelawny, Manchester and St. Elizabeth with the majority of the forests being in Trelawny. It is a biodiversity hotspot with a high rate of plant and animal endemism and important for its geological and cultural heritage. It also the source of six major rivers and supplies 40% of Jamaica’s freshwater.

Efforts to protect Cockpit Country began in the 1950s, continued in the late 1990s and ramped up further starting in 2006, when it became clear that prospecting licenses for bauxite had been granted for a large part of Cockpit Country.

After many years of advocacy and at least seven proposed boundaries, on November 21, 2017, Jamaican Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Andrew Holness announced the designated Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) boundary in Parliament. The area would comprise approximately 74,726 hectares and will include existing forest reserves, significant hydrological and ecological features and cultural and heritage sites. Prime Minister Holness also indicated the CCPA would be closed to mining.

March 17, 2022, five years later, the Prime Minister finally officially declared the CCPA legally protected and closed to mining under the Natural Resources Conservation (Cockpit Country Protected Area) Order, 2022. The gazetted Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) is 78,024 hectares, while the Cockpit County Stakeholder Group (CCSG) Boundary, widely accepted by most stakeholders as the most correct boundary is 116, 218 hectares. The newly declared CCPA is approximately 32% smaller and excludes important areas, many of which are being considered for Special Exclusive Prospective Licenses (SEPL) and includes those areas in the northeast that have been recently released for mining.

Unfortunately, there is still no buffer zone around the protected area which means mining, quarrying or prospecting would be allowed right up to the boundary. JET and others are particularly concerned about potential impacts to the Rio Bueno watershed and its rural communities, including Jackland, Richmond Pen (along with their Water Catchment), Barnstaple, Broadleaf and Bryan Castle.

Through the Finishing the Race: Securing Protection of Jamaica’s Cockpit Country and Beyond-2022” JET continues to build citizen awareness about rights to a healthy environmental and the ecological richness of Cockpit Country; disseminate the “Red Dirt” publication to affect decision making tied to bauxite mining, with a focus on the Compensation Mechanisms; and advocate for the Jamaican government to prepare a transition plan for the bauxite alumina industry, through community dialogue and more.
Since the Prime Minister’s 2017 announcement, JET has:

    • Strengthened relationships with communities in and around the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA), through a series of meetings in and around the Cockpit Country
    • Liaised with government stakeholders involved in the process towards the declaration of the CCPA, including stakeholder meetings with civil society, legal and scientific reviews of related government documents
    • Submitted numerous requests to the government for information on the process towards the protection of the Cockpit Country under law and the activities of mining companies nearby the designated CCPA boundary
    • Developed and disseminated public education materials including audio-visual productions, graphics, maps, reports, written briefings and online content on the importance of protecting the Cockpit Country and closing it to mining through the Save Cockpit Country campaign

The Finishing the Race: Securing Protection of Jamaica’s Cockpit Country and Beyond-2022 project is being delivered in partnership with the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide. Our first Cockpit Country project with ELAW began in 2017 and they have supported our work ever since. For more information, check out the Save Cockpit Country campaign website here.

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