Arlington James of the Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division conducting a radar survey on the western slopes of Morne Anglais, Dominica
Arlington James of the Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division conducting a radar survey on the western slopes of Morne Anglais, Dominica

Forest Policy Reviewed: Better Sustainable Management of Dominica's Forests

Dominica has taken the official step to be more effective in protecting, preserving, and maintaining its forests through the revision of its Forest Policy.

The Forest Policy Act was first drafted in 2010 then amended and enacted in March 2022. The Act seeks to give policy guidance to the development of forest management plans and programmes.

According to Assistant Forest Officer in the Forest Management Unit of the Forestry Division, Norma Anthony, "This is in keeping with the Division's mandate of conservation and sustainable use of Dominica's natural resources while providing livelihood opportunities for communities."

The review of this policy is timely as Dominica recently observed the International Day of Forests, IDF, which spoke to the theme 'Forests and Sustainable Production and Consumption.'

IDF raises awareness o the importance of all types of forests and places emphasis on how the forests are essential for the planet's health and wellbeing. It also encourages citizens to play a part in halting deforestation and degradation.

Anthony says it is vital that Dominica pays attention to the health of its forests since it is used as a revenue generator for the country.

"Dominica is known as a biodiversity hot spot in the Caribbean," Anthony pointed out, "It is home to multiple endemic species. And also because of our expansive forests, we are afforded the opportunity to be one of the top eco-tourism destinations in the Caribbean," Anthony said. Due to its forest cover, Dominica is also afforded many research opportunities which further push the Division to continue building awareness at all levels so people are mindful of the benefits of the forests.

Unfortunately, the main hindrance in preserving Dominica's forest cover is the constant threat of development projects on the island. The Assistant Forest Officer says the Division is continuously educating people on the importance of proper use of the forests.

"Sometimes people fail to realize the importance of the forest and at times it is a bit difficult to maintain the balance of nature; remaining the Nature Island of the Caribbean and development," Anthony said.

Anthony emphasized that staff at the Division are always available to the general public whenever they seek technical advice or assistance for land development projects.

"We try to teach people that there can be a better balance between nature and development. We don't have to sacrifice nature to be a developed island because we are benefitting from the forests economically."

Agriculture is also key in the sustainable use of the forest and using this resource for consumption purposes

IDF also speaks to how the Forestry sector generates millions of jobs for people internationally. Additionally, it teaches individuals how to use the forests and that it is vital for food production and food security.

"We have to think of agriculture as well, if we lose our forest, agriculture would not be as vibrant as we have it now, because we practice agroforestry in Dominica, we try to merge agriculture and forestry in one," she said.

Regardless of the ongoing attempts to preserve the forest and its integrity Dominica is still at risk of losing forest cover and fertile soils. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, the planet continues to lose about 10 million hectares of forests per year due to deforestation.

Anthony laments that if Dominicans disregard the importance of the forest and the country sees wide-scale deforestation this could be devastating for thousands of people across several sectors.

"The downside of losing forest cover is we are prone to erosion and landslides, we can lose our riparian (river banks) forests. We can have issues with our coast, we can lose our coastal areas, we can lose our endemic species, our flora and fauna, and the numbers can be reduced. So many things can happen if we lose our forest," she said.

Despite the ongoing risk of losing forest cover to development projects, Anthony is grateful the general public has been active in helping protect the forest and the wildlife species which dwell therein.