Just before planting a tree to signify his Ministry’s commitment to environmental stewardship, Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources the Hon. Vaughn Miller told students of Jack Hayward Junior High School in Freeport that the baton in the race of environmental protection will soon be passed on to them and that they must become good stewards of The Bahamas’ environment.
In a short presentation to the student body on Thursday, March 23, 2023 on the importance of the forests, Minister Miller gave the junior high students an abbreviated version on the history of forests in Grand Bahama and The Bahamas and how its existence benefits them directly and indirectly. “Our forests are important in the field of medicine,” said Minister Miller.
“Everything you have on – your clothes, shoes, socks, stockings, earrings, and more, all came from the earth. So, we must be environmental stewards when it comes to protecting and serving our forests. From treating physical ailments and providing mental relief, our forests act as direct lines to health.”
Minister Miller was the guest speaker at a special assembly at Jack Hayward Junior High School, as faculty, staff and the student body celebrated International Day of Forests, under the theme “the forest and health”.
The Minister of the Environment informed the students about the three types of forests in The Bahamas – the pine forest, the coppice forest and the mangroves. Each, he said, contributes to the daily development of The Bahamas.
The tradition of using the leaves from a variety of plants for medicinal purposes is still being carried out even today, according to Minister Miller. In addition to health benefits, he noted that the coppice forest is the feeding ground for a number of birds, including the white crown pigeon.
Mr. Miller reflected on his growing years in Eleuthera where, because computers, video games and social media was not yet invented, he and his friends spent most of their play time roaming through the forests (or the bush) on the island, exploring, picking pigeon plums, custards, catching crabs and looking for goat feed.
Their adventures took them through the bushes hunting birds and into the mangroves looking for various kinds of fish.
Expanding his talk and branching outside of The Bahamas, Minister Miller told the students that there were basically four types of mangroves throughout the Caribbean – the red mangroves, white mangroves, the black mangroves and buttonwood.
“Apart from their ecological purpose, these mangroves hold medicinal purposes as well,” said Mr. Miller. “The buttonwood can be used to treat cuts, bruises, sores and even induce vomit. The black mangrove can be used to make different types of teas, to treat skin problems, to help with gas and hemorrhoids. The white mangrove, the bark can act as an antiseptic.
“The mangroves can offer therapeutic benefits as well. Because they are normally isolated, away from the city, the noises, and away from civilization: and the remoteness, along with the beauty of the area, can act as an anti-stress environment.”
Minister Miller pointed out that not only does the forests and mangroves in the Bahamas benefit Bahamians, but they serve a purpose in eco-tourism. He explained that because the forests in The Bahamas attract migratory birds to the islands, tourists from around the world travel to The Bahamas to trek through the pine forests and the coppice forests to go bird watching. He added that the forests and mangroves also help to add to the beauty of the islands, which has always been a magnet for visitors from around the world.
“I’ve visited many Family Islands and the interesting thing to me is to compare things similar and things that were different in the various islands,” explained Minister Miller. “One thing about these islands I’ve noticed is the amount of pine trees. Pine forests provide a peaceful place for nature walks or to enjoy the scenic environment and wild life.
“The pine forest is a major source of fresh water, because pine trees depend on ground water reserve to grow. Someone once told me that in the area where there are lots of pine trees, there could be three to five hundred gallons of fresh water.
The largest fresh water reserves are found in North Andros, East Grand Bahama and Central and South Abaco.”
In concluding his talk, Minister Miller informed the students of the interesting careers in forestry and wild-life that are available to them. Some of those careers include becoming a Biologist; forest scientist, Park Rangers, Conservation Officers, Conservation Scientists, Environmental Scientists and Zoologists in the field of Forestry.
“Through new environmental management policies and laws by my ministry, the Ministry of Environment, The Bahamas will be expected to have forests for generations to come,” said Minister Miller. “For you young people, know that you’re growing up in a beautiful country and one day you will be adults. So we’re preparing you today, as we pass the country on to you. And we want you to become good stewards, good care-takers of the environment, of our oceans, our forests and our land.”
By ANDREW COAKLEY/ Bahamas Information Services
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