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Governments act to save tropical forest in Jamaica

The governments of the United States of America and Jamaica, together with The Nature Conservancy, recently concluded agreements to reduce Jamaica’s debt to the United States by nearly US$16 million dollars. In return, the Government of Jamaica has committed to provide this money to fund projects to conserve and restore important tropical forest resources on the island nation of Jamaica over the next 20 years.ÊU.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Sue Cobb, Jamaican Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke, and The Nature Conservancy Country Director Terence Williams signed the agreements, which were made possible through a grant of US$6.5 million from the U.S. Government and a contribution of US$1.3 million from The Nature Conservancy.

Jamaica has unique flora and fauna composed of a high percentage of endemic species, including 28 percent of its flowering plants and 25 breeding bird species. A growing number of plant and animal species are identified as vulnerable to extinction, critically imperiled or rare.

The aim of this debt-for-nature swap is to help Jamaica in its fight to safeguard the valuable forests and rich biodiversity in several areas. This includes areas such as the Blue and John Crow Mountain forest reserve/national park, which contain the island’s tallest peak, the endangered Giant Swallowtail Butterfly and a number of endemic orchids.ÊIt also includes the Portland Bight Protected Area, which is the only place in the island where the Jamaican Iguana, once thought to be extinct, is found in the wild.

The Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1998 was first funded in 2000 to provide eligible developing countries opportunities to reduce debts owed the United States while generating funds to conserve their forests.

Jamaica is one of eight countries to benefit from the act so far; other countries are Bangladesh, Belize, Colombia, El Salvador, Panama, the Philippines and Peru. Together these agreements will generate more than US$95 million to protect tropical forests over the next 10 to 25 years.