Blue and John Crow
Mountains National Park
In 1990, Blue and
John Crow Mountains National Park was declared Jamaica’s first
terrestrial national park. Located on the eastern end of the island, it
protects one third of the approximately 30 percent of Jamaica that is
still under natural forest cover, which is also the island’s largest
remaining tract of intact, closed-canopy, broadleaf forest. The park is
made up of two connected mountain ranges – the shale-based Blue
Mountains and the limestone-based John Crow Mountains. The Blue
Mountain and John Crow Mountain forests have among the highest endemism
and total species diversity in the Caribbean.
Jamaica is a
relatively large island isolated from continental landmasses. As a
result, the island has a striking proportion of endemic flora and
fauna. It is estimated that 40 percent of the flowering plants found in
the Blue and John Crow Mountains are found nowhere else in the world.
Birds such as the Jamaican blackbird, yellow-billed parrot, and
ring-tailed pigeon are three of Jamaica’s 28 endemic bird species.
These mountains also are prime habitat for tree frogs, giant
swallowtail butterflies and the Jamaican hutia (a large groundhog-sized
rodent, also called the coney), the island's only endemic land mammal.
The Blue and John Crow Mountains are also home to approximately 150
resident and migratory species of birds.
The Blue and John Crow Mountains are
divided into 10 watershed
which supply water for the nearby urban and rural areas.
Conservation of the forest resources will assure the continued supply
and quantity of water necessary to maintain the health and livelihoods
of those who depend on this resource.
The most significant current threat to the Blue and John Crow Mountains
is deforestation, which occurs as subsistence and commercial farmers
use slash and burn techniques to convert forests to agriculture land.
As soils fail, farmers eventually abandon the land and clear new
areas. Illegal timber harvesting removes valued timber species
and degrades the natural forest, changing its species composition and
Invasive species also threaten the Blue and John Crow Mountains,
changing habitat structure and species composition. Two invasive
aggressors, wild coffee (Pittosporum undulatum), a native of eastern
Australia, and Ginger Lily (Hydicum spicatum) of South Asia are
invading and quickly spreading in closed canopy forests and along boggy
A Strategy of Success
Parks in Peril (PiP) provided support in Blue and John Crow from
1998-2001 by concentrating its efforts on strengthening park
management, maintaining forest integrity, and enabling compatible
economic development. PiP sought to improve the technical capacity of
park personnel and develop basic infrastructure. It also ensured that
all park rangers were mobile and had access to communication systems.
Staff received training in community-based tourism, tour guiding,
CPR/First Aid, and project management.
Forest restoration was also a priority in the buffer zones of the park.
PiP’s partner organization, Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust
(JCDT), established a tree nursery and distributed timber and fruit
trees to buffer zone communities for planting. JCDT and PiP also
promoted business activities in local communities by providing training
in environmentally compatible business activities to businessmen and
Field research was conducted on birds in the Blue and John Crow
Mountains to determine the health of the ecosystem and assess
populations of threatened and endangered species. This information was
also integrated in workshops for teachers in buffer zone schools.
Teachers learned about Jamaica’s birds and methods of integrating bird
awareness programs into classroom curriculums. Teachers were taught
general environmental education principles and ways to bring
environmental concepts into everyday teaching. A video entitled
“Watersheds” was also produced to provide community members with
information about the relationships between land management and water
Source: Parks in Peril