THE Main Ridge Forest Reserve celebrated its 244th anniversary of being proclaimed a legally-protected forest reserve on April 13. This declaration, in 1776, gave the Main Ridge Forest Reserve a renowned place on the environmental historical record, as the first and therefore oldest act of forest conservation in the Western Hemisphere.
An inaugural anniversary celebration
To increase awareness of the importance of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, the Division of Food Production, Forestry and Fisheries (THA) in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO/UN), Turtle Village Trust, Environment Tobago and local corporate sponsors in March 2019, co-ordinated a public event to celebrate the establishment of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve. This event, which coincided with the observance of the International Day of Forests, was coined the Main Ridge Forest Fitness Challenge. The theme for the International Day of Forests in 2019 was Forests & Education and celebrations took the form of a Main Ridge Forest walk/run/cycle challenge and a Story-Time Kids Jamboree for pre-school children from Early Childhood Centres in east Tobago.
Building it bigger
Due to the overwhelming support received in 2019, which saw the participation of over 200 participants, the organisers expressed that this event should become an annual event in Tobago. Following consultations with project stakeholders, the name of the event was fittingly re-branded the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Experience. The 2020 event gained support and funding from public-private partnerships. Some of the stakeholder organisations that gave support included the Wildlife Association of Tobago, Top Catch High Speed Catamaran Coastline and Fishing Charters, Main Ridge Nature Explorers and Lammy Nature Tours.
The 2020 Tobago Main Ridge Forest Experience was launched on February 4, 2020 at the Scarborough Library, by the Secretary of the Division, Hayden Spencer and was scheduled to take place on March 30, 2020. In light of the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus disease covid19, however, the event was postponed pending global public health advice.
Worthy of celebration
Despite this postponement, the division, alongside its stakeholders, reminds the public of many good reasons for celebrating this anniversary:-
* The Main Ridge Forest Reserve is approximately 3,937 hectares in size and is one of the oldest legally-protected Forest Reserves in the Western Hemisphere.
* The reserve itself was formally established on April 13, 1776 by an ordinance which outlines that this was resolutely done for attracting rains upon the island.
*The survival of endemic species such as the Ocellated gecko (gonatodes ocellatus) and the white-tailed Sabrewing Hummingbird (campylopterus ensipennis) depends on sound management of this site.
* The rainforest of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve plays an important role in delivering wellness and other ecosystem services.
* The forest reserve is in the process of being listed as a National Heritage Site under the National Trust Act.
* A management plan has been developed under the Improving Forest and Protected Area Management in TT project to prevent biodiversity loss within the Main Ridge Forest Reserve.
For more info about the Main Ridge Forest Reserve: visit facebook @tobagomainridgeforestexperience and www.protectedareastt.org.tt or contact the Department of Natural Resources and Forestry, Glen Road, Scarborough,
Submitted by the Project Coordinating Unit, Improving Forest and Protected Area Management, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO/UN), Representation for TT and Suriname