Members of the public are being encouraged to desist from destroying or stealing trees planted by the National Conservation Commission (NCC), or from allowing their animals to do so.
This comes as a number of trees planted under the Capacity Building for Youth in Sustainable Land Management Project, to plant 80,000 trees in five years continues with over 21,000 being planted so far.
However, NCC Technical Officer, Ryan Als, has expressed concern that a number of trees under the project, which started in 2007, were stolen, cut down, trampled or eaten. Noting that trees being destroyed so far were of varying varieties, Mr. Als said a decision was made to mainly plant trees in controlled areas such as at schools, community centres and some play parks to reduce their susceptibility to vandalism.
“We are looking at these areas because then we will have people to care for the trees,” he said. He explained that residents in Station Hill, St. Michael usually took care of some trees planted there and even prevented them from being destroyed by horses.
Areas mainly affected include the East Coast, St. Andrew, Brandons, St. Michael, and some play parks.
At the East Coast, the Technical Officer explained, the trees were destroyed by animals, mostly goats, but occasionally cows. In addition, he said trees were also destroyed by people driving four-wheel drive vehicles and ATVs across the beaches.
Mr. Als added that sea grape trees were planted at Brandons Beach to improve nesting conditions for turtles, but were cut down.
The Technical Officer explained that most of the affected trees were between three and 12 feet, and had been growing for between four to five years.
The initiative to plant 80,000 trees came as the NCC sought to re-forest the island, especially along areas prone to soil erosion; improve the natural aesthetics; and increase the variety of vegetation across the island.
Since the start of the tree planting programme, trees were planted along beaches and parks such as Barclays Park, Three Houses and King George V Park.
Schools, government and non-governmental organisations are participating in the effort.