What is the Northeast Ecological Corridor?
Take Action! Speak Up for Leatherback Sea Turtles!
Sierra Club and its coalition partners are challenging Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño's proposed cancellation of the "nature reserve" designation held since 2008 by the island's Northeast Ecological Corridor.
Covering more than 3,000 acres in the northeast corner of Puerto Rico, the Corridor had been designated as a nature reserve in 2008 by preceding governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá. But on October 30, 2009, Governor Fortuño removed the designation of nature reserve in order to allow for large-scale, unsustainable development in the area, including more than 4,500 residential and tourist units and four golf courses.
The Corridor is one of the most important U.S. nesting grounds for the critically endangered Leatherback, the world's largest sea turtles. More than 50 rare, threatened, endangered and native species have been documented in the Corridor, including the Snowy Plover, the Brown Pelican, the Puerto Rican Boa, the Hawksbill Sea Turtle and the West Indian Manatee.
"Sierra Club and its coalition partners are mobilizing supporters to call on Governor Fortuño to reverse his decision and to approve the Land Use and Management Plan for the Northeast Ecological Corridor Nature Reserve that was presented in public hearings last year and had overwhelming public support," said Angel Sosa, President of the Sierra Club of Puerto Rico. "Governor Fortuño still has a chance to demonstrate his commitment toward the protection and sustainable development of the extraordinary Northeast Ecological Corridor before it's too late."
Photo Gallery: The ex-Governor of Puerto Rico Anibal Acevedo Vila learning about the Northeast Ecological Corridor.
Puerto Rico, known as "La Isla del Encanto" (the Island of Enchantment), beckons tourists with its luscious beaches and tropical forests.
Indeed, the Northeast Ecological Corridor on Puerto Rico's eastern shoreline represents the natural beauty that makes this United States territory such a popular destination. Its 3,200 acres include forests, wetlands, beaches, coral communities, a bioluminescent lagoon and one of the hottest surfing spots on Puerto Rico's east coast: "La Selva" (the jungle).
The corridor is home to 40 endemic and threatened species, and its beaches are one of the three most important nesting sites for the leatherback sea turtle in the U.S. But the wildlife and natural wonders share Puerto Rico's tight quarters with an extremely high population, droves of tourists and the pavement that accompanies them. Puerto Rico has a higher population density than all 50 U.S. states — 1,000 people per square mile — and one of the highest road densities in the world.
Puerto Rico is an island in peril, and the Northeast Ecological Corridor faces one of the most imminent threats. Local developers have their sights set on the corridor for two mega resorts, three golf courses and housing developments in the heart of the corridor. The resorts, to be run by Marriott and Four Seasons, would wreak havoc on this special natural treasure.
The local residents will not fare any better. The economic boom of tourism has historically bypassed local entrepreneurs and residents, as tourists are shuttled by the busload to and from mega-resorts and nearby mega-stores instead of patronizing local businesses in area towns, like Luquillo and Fajardo.
In addition, Puerto Rico is already suffering from an alarming lack of water; over 25,000 residents in this area alone face a 4-million-gallon daily deficit. The Puerto Rico Chapter of Sierra Club — established in 2005 — and a coalition of local community and environmental groups are calling for the permanent protection of the Northeast Ecological Corridor as a Nature Reserve, allowing access to surfers, fishermen, Puerto Ricans, tourists and small-scale ecotourism operations.
To join the efforts to rein in unchecked development and protect this amazing place, please contact:
Camilla Feibelman at 787.688.6214
Photo courtesy Jennifer Hattam/Sierra Club Collection; all rights reserved.
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