The Nature Conservancy Contributes to $16 Million Jamaica and U.S. Debt-for-Nature Swap
U.S. and Jamaican Governments Protect Tropical Forest on One of the Most Biologically Diverse Islands in the Caribbean
The Nature Conservancy
Arlington, VA—October 8, 2004—Today, The Nature Conservancy announced its $1.3 million contribution to the debt-for-nature swap between the United States and Jamaican governments. The transaction will protect Jamaica’s critical and threatened tropical forests, which are home to many species found no where else on Earth.
The U.S. Government is committing $6.5 million toward this swap. As a result of both contributions, nearly $13 million of Jamaica’s debt to the United States will be cancelled. In exchange, the Jamaican government will invest almost $16 million over the next 17 years to create a trust fund that will provide long-term funding to protect and manage the island’s national parks and forest reserves.
“People around the world are familiar with Jamaica’s beaches as a popular vacation destination. They are less familiar with its equally spectacular tropical forests,” said Steve McCormick, president of The Nature Conservancy. “It’s almost as if these forests and the amazing plant and animal life they contain are the ‘hidden Jamaica.’ We are delighted to be a part of protecting Jamaica’s rich biological and cultural heritage so that the treasures of today will be available tomorrow.”
Jamaica, located approximately 600 miles south of Miami, is the third largest island in the Caribbean, yet it has more species of birds and reptiles found no place else in the world than any other Caribbean island.
Although Jamaica is known for its stunning coral reefs and beaches, nearly a third of the land, approximately 828,000 acres, is still forested. These interior rainforests, particularly the forest that runs along the spine of Jamaica’s mountains, are home to most of Jamaica’s wildlife, as well as 3,582 plant species, of which 912 are unique to the island. The slopes of the so-called Spinal Forest are some of the most significant migratory bird habitat in the Caribbean. Jamaica also supports more than 30 bird species, 26 of which are exclusive to the country.
Unfortunately, these forests are under increasing pressure from expanding agricultural development, mining and population growth. As deforestation and soil erosion caused by these activities continues to degrade the Spinal Forest, the freshwater supply for Jamaica’s two largest cities – the country’s capital, Kingston, and the economically-vital tourist center of Montego Bay – is threatened. Both cities draw their water supplies from watersheds situated in the Spinal Forest, in fact all the headwaters of the major rivers in Jamaica are found there.
The debt-swap funding will be used to create a Protected Areas Trust Fund that allows the Jamaican government and a network of local, established conservation organizations to have reliable and sufficient funding for important conservation projects such as:
- Conducting scientific research and biological surveys,
- Preparing and planning for new national parks and forest reserves,
- Planting trees,
- Restoring damaged ecosystems, and
- Conducting public education and community outreach activities.
“Prior to this debt-swap, Jamaica made an unprecedented commitment to protecting its precious natural resources by pledging to set up a comprehensive, ecologically representative system and effectively managed system of protected areas,” said Terry Williams, Jamaica country program director for The Nature Conservancy. “This debt-swap enables the Jamaican government, local conservation groups and local communities to realize this ambitious goal.”
The debt-swap mechanism used in Jamaica is provided for under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) of 1998, also known as the Portman Act. TFCA legislation is intended generate funds for tropical forest conservation in eligible countries by reducing their official debt to the U.S. Government. Recently, Congress passed new legislation reauthorizing the TFCA through 2007, which will allow these types of transactions to continue.
The agreements were signed by U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica, Sue Cobb, the Jamaican Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, and The Nature Conservancy’s Terry Williams. The agreement with Jamaica marks the eighth concluded by the U.S. government and a partner country, and the sixth debt-for-nature swap facilitated through a significant financial contribution from The Nature Conservancy.
Learn more online about the topics discussed in this press release:
- The Nature Conservancy in Jamaica
As Jamaica was never connected with any other land mass, it has a high percentage of unique species. Working with local partner organizations, The Nature Conservancy directs its efforts at the majestic Blue and John Crow Mountains, which serve as a critical corridor for wildlife, migratory birds and are the source of multiple rivers and streams.
- Jamaica's First Debt-for-Nature Swap
The Debt Swap will support the growth, restoration, protection and maintenance of critical forests in national parks throughout Jamaica as well as the strengthening of local conservation groups.
- The Jamaica Observer: US, Jamaica sign US$16-m debt-for-nature swap deal
"Jamaica and the United States on Friday signed a US$16-million (approx J$1 billion) agreement under a debt-for-nature swap programme, aimed at supporting Jamaica's forest conservation activities."
- Online Field Guide: Cockpit Country, Jamaica
With 5,000 hillocks and valleys rippling across the land, Cockpit Country has been nearly impenetrable for humans - good news for Jamaica's most pristine forests.
- Funding for Conservation: Debt-for-Nature Swaps and Conservation Trust Funds (CTFs)
The Nature Conservancy works with conservation supporters and partner organizations to create funding for conservation worldwide using a variety of creative methods.
- Where We Work: Tropical and Temperate Rainforests
Wild and wondrous, rainforests extend from as far as Alaska and Canada to Latin America, Asia and Africa. They nurture thousands of rainforest animals and plants found nowhere else on Earth and provide life's essentials such as our medicines, food and water.
- Tropical Forest Conservation Act
The Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) was enacted in 1998 to offer eligible developing countries options to relieve certain official debt owed the U.S. while at the same time generating funds to support local tropical forest conservation activities.