Management of Forest Resources
The forest resources of the PBPA include the dry forests of Hellshire Hills, Brazilletto Mountains, Kemps Hill and Portland Ridge. Also included are the mangroves that fringe most of the coastline. There are two Forest Reserves, Hellshire and Peake Bay. The forested areas contribute to underground water resources and are used by charcoal burners, timber extractors, beekeepers, and collectors of thatch, orchids and medicinal plants.
Issues affecting the PBPA's forests include badly sited woodcutting, bush fires, and the establishment and expansion of rock quarries. These can lead to all kinds of longterm problems such as flash flooding and the removal of the habitats of rare and endemic plants and animals. Management of forest resources involve the promotion of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use with the participation of stakeholders.
- Badly sited woodcutting causes erosion of topsoil. This reduces soil fertility and clouds rivers and coastal waters. It can also increase the risk of flash flooding and rockfalls. Most extraction of resources from forests is done without permission from landowners by forest users who see Crown lands as an open-access resource. The dynamics and economic importance of these illegal activities have not been assessed.
- Bush fires in the forests, which are usually set by people, can destroy large areas of forest and regeneration can be slow. This is a particularly serious problem during droughts and after hurricanes.
- The establishment and expansion of quarrying could pose a serious threat to Brazilletto Mountains and Hellshire. The quarrying of limestone and marble requires the removal of the tree cover, and with it the habitats of rare and endemic flora and fauna (plants and animals). Quarrying also creates ugly scars amidst green wooded hillsides.
- The expansion of housing schemes threatens the northern and central parts of the Brazilletto Mountains and eastern Hellshire.
- The disruption of the ecology of the forests (through the removal of seed dispersers such as Whitecrowned Pigeons, for example) is another important threat.
- Invasive alien species including goats and exotic plants can interfere with the natural regeneration of forests.
- The export of charcoal can indirectly lead to the overuse of forest resources.
Although forest resources are thought to be an important contributor to the local economy, most efforts have focused on enforcement and there are no other on-going programmes for active management of forest resources (except in relation to gamebirds). There has been a lot of discussion about the relocation of charcoal burners and the establishment of tree and fuelwood plantations. The Special Climate Change Fund tried to establish a trial tree nursery, but this was unsuccessful.
There have also been discussions about some initiatives:
- The Forestry Department and C-CAM have discussed the establishment of a permanent forest monitoring plot in the Peake Bay Forest Reserve.
- An important new initiative is the work that is being done with charcoal burners in the western Brazilletto Mountains through the Clarendon Parish Development Commitee/Raymonds Citizens Association. They have started to organize the charcoal burners to form a Charcoal Burners Association and have been holding street corner meetings.