In a move aimed at intensifying its protection of the island’s forests, the Forestry Department has launched a toll free, 24-hour hotline aimed at encouraging the public to report breaches of the forest laws.
The toll free number, 1-888- FORESTS, which became operational on August 1, is an avenue for the public to call in and report illegal activities such as cutting of trees, forest fires, pasturing of animals, illegal occupation or cultivation of crops.
Persons who call are required to state what they observed, the location where this observation was noted and the date it happened. Persons are not required to leave their name or contact details. Once the report is made, the Forestry Department will investigate the information received.
The agency’s thrust towards greater compliance and enforcement started in 2009 with the creation of the Legal and Enforcement Division, which has a cadre of 40 rangers who patrol forest reserves across the island.
Between 2010 and last year, more than 35 persons have been brought before the courts for breaking various forest laws. Fines of more than $600,000 or sentences ranging from 10 days to three months imprisonment have been levied against persons found guilty of various offences.