Forest management has been practiced in Trinidad and Tobago since 1765 when the first Forest Reserve in the Western Hemisphere, the Main Ridge of Tobago, was designated. In 1942, while Trinidad and Tobago was still a British colony, the first official forest policy was formulated. In 1979, the Conservator of Forests commissioned a review and updating of the Policy, resulting in a draft Forest Resources Policy in 1981. However, this document was never formally
In 1998, another draft Forest Policy was prepared by the Conservator of Forests after a comprehensive forest policy review process. This document took into account the forestry sector‟s growing contribution to national development and the Forestry Division‟s role as a provider of goods and services, and as a facilitator to its stakeholders. This Revised Forest Policy of 1998 was presented to Cabinet in 1999 and Cabinet agreed, inter alia, that the draft Forest Policy would be published as a Green Paper for public comment. However, this process was not completed and the policy not formally adopted.
Because subsequent forest policy documents were not formally approved, the country‟s forest resources are still officially governed by the outdated 1942 Forest Policy. Considering the changes that have occurred in the policy environment, the national legal framework and in forest management strategies since 1998, the Cabinet of Ministers agreed that the Forest Policy be comprehensively reviewed and reformulated.
The formulation of this National Forest Policy was guided by a Cabinet-appointed Technical Advisory Committee comprising representatives from public sector agencies, non-governmental organisations, academia and the private sector, with technical assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). All relevant documents were identified and analysed, and several national consultations were held during the drafting of the document, to ensure that the needs and aspirations of all stakeholders were taken into consideration. The present statement is the result of this rigorous process, and it is hoped that its adoption and implementation will contribute to sustainable development through the effective conservation and management of forests and forests resources in Trinidad and Tobago.
This National Forest Policy is not an isolated statement, and it builds on the existing policy framework for forest management and it supplements and enhances other public policies and plans, especially the National Environmental Policy (NEP), the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) and the National Action Programme to Combat Land Degradation. It is also envisaged that this Policy will be enabled through existing and proposed policy instruments in the forestry sector, including legislation, strategic plans for key government agencies and other institutional actors, a National Forests Systems Plan, and management plans for specific areas and forest resources.
This National Forest Policy recognises that forests, forest resources and forest uses contribute significantly to national development, livelihoods and human wellbeing.
This National Forest Policy also recognizes that the quality and extent of the forest estate has changed dramatically since the 1940s, and the demands for goods and services from these forests have also greatly intensified. Given that the functions of forests are varied and the relationships between forests and other sectors are complex, this policy statement encompasses all the main dimensions of forest conservation, use and management. The key challenge of this policy is the maintenance of forest ecosystems in light of competing demands for land.