Protecting Jamaica's Wetlands

E-LAW U.S. is helping partners at the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) protect Jamaica's beaches, reefs, and wetlands. JET is leading the way in protecting the environment through law in the Caribbean.

Sunset on Jamaica`s Pear Tree BottomPear Tree Bottom, a biologically rich area on Jamaica`s North Coast. (PHOTO: Wendy Lee)

Pear Tree Bottom

For the first time in Jamaica's history, a local organization has filed for judicial review of a development project. JET submitted the precedent-setting action challenging construction of the 1,900-room Bahia Principe Resort in Pear Tree Bottom, a biologically rich area on Jamaica`s North Coast. The proposed resort site includes a dry limestone forest, freshwater marshes, a river, coastal wetlands, wildlife habitat, and one of the healthiest coral reefs on the North Coast.

Before the public had an opportunity to weigh in, and before environmental permits were issued, the Government of Jamaica allowed land to be cleared to make room for the resort.

To strengthen legal protections for Jamaica's coast, JET, four individuals, and the Northern Jamaican Conservation Association (NJCA) filed a lawsuit challenging the approval process for the Bahia Resort. In November 2005, the court granted JET permission to bring the case. Hearings began in February 2006. At JET`s request, E-LAW U.S. Staff Scientist, Mark Chernaik, evaluated the proposed resort's environmental impact assessment (EIA) and pointed out its many flaws. E-LAW U.S. Staff Attorney, Jennifer Gleason, helped JET attorney, Akilah Anderson, research legal arguments and prepare submissions for the precedent-setting case. E-LAW U.S. will continue to collaborate closely with JET as the case unfolds.

Canoe Valley

In December 2005, JET learned that a U.S. corporation planned to build a deep-water port and limestone mine in Canoe Valley on Jamaica's South Coast. This area is one of Jamaica's most valuable and unspoiled wetlands. Florida-based Rinker Materials was applying for a mining license and presenting itself to Jamaican authorities as an environmentally friendly corporation.

With help from a University of Oregon law student and a public interest lawyer in Florida, E-LAW U.S. collected evidence that Rinker had a track record of violating environmental laws in Florida. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection had punished Rinker for violating water quality standards and other environmental regulations at its facilities across Florida.

JET shared this information with regulators, attended stakeholder and public meetings for Canoe Valley community members, and generated many letters objecting to Rinker`s proposed project. In March, JET announced good news: the government of Jamaica is no longer considering Rinker`s proposal!

Diana McCaulay, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET)
Diana McCaulay, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET)

Diana McCaulay Wins 2005 McFarlane Award

Diana McCaulay, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), received the 2005 Euan P. McFarlane Award for Outstanding Environmental Leadership in the Insular Caribbean. Established in 1987, the award is named for the late Euan McFarlane of St. Croix, who was actively involved in environmental causes in the Caribbean. The prize is administered by the Island Resources Foundation.

Diana was presented the award in February 2006 in recognition of 15 years of leadership within the environmental conservation movement in Jamaica. Her nomination noted her role in founding and managing JET, promoting hands-on projects to clean up Jamaica`s waterways and beaches, supporting environmental education in the schools through teacher training and curriculum development, encouraging community education through outreach programs and in the media, and serving as a tireless advocate for effective environmental regulation and enforcement in Jamaica.

Congratulations Diana!