1. The Virgin Land
St Lucia was once covered with forest. Mangroves hugged the shore. Huge tree ferns grew on the mountain slopes and in the forest, trailing vines hung from the tall trees. Birds of many different kinds flew all about and sipped nectar from the flowers or searched for insects in the fallen leaves on the forest floor.
There were hundreds of parrots. At dawn when they left their nesting places to feed their noisy calling and quarrelling echoed from one mountain top to the other.
When rain fell it was soaked up by the ground and channelled into the many sparkling clear rivers that ran down toward the sea. It was a time of peace and beauty. There were no sheep or goats to nibble the plants within an inch of their lives, no pigs to root up the earth, no men to chop down the trees or cut and burn the land.
Amerindians from South America came to the island by canoe. They found it green and lush with forest stretching as far as the eye could see.
It did not seem possible that the small patches they cleared or the few trees they cut could make any difference. But as more people came their needs increased. The towns and villages grew in size and soon people were moving into every part of the forest. They hunted, cut trees, cleared land and burned bush, leaving only waste and destruction behind.
In time the forest became seriously threatened by man's activities. Many of the plants and birds that live or grow there cannot exist anywhere else. Some of them are found nowhere else in the world. If their forest habitat is destroyed they will also vanish, never to be seen on earth again.
The forest is our most important natural resource. Without it our supplies of fresh water would gradually disappear. When topsoil is left exposed on cleared slopes it washes into the rivers carrying chemicals from the land with it. Rivers silt up, even the waters around the coast become polluted.
Today rainforest covers only 11% of the island. Most of it is protected and controlled by the government. In the centre of the island, 648 hectares of rainforest have been turned into a Nature Reserve.