Río Hondo Community in Mayagüez celebrated the acquisition of community forest

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Yaneris Soto, Media Specialist

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The community and government agencies came together to celebrate this achievement

San Juan, Puerto Rico, March 29, 2019 - The community of Río Hondo celebrated last Friday in Mayagüez the acquisition of its community forest, a fight that the residents of the community have been holding for 10 years.

Over 300 people from the community and invitees gathered in the morning and part of the afternoon of last Friday, March 22 to celebrate the rescue of the 67.9 acres of land. The place was attended by representatives of public and private entities, including representation of the Mayor of Mayagüez, José Guillermo Rodríguez, representation of the PR Fire Department, the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez, among other community groups and local artisans.

Samuel González, representing the Mayaguez City Hall, congratulated the community leaders for fighting for the rescue of El Bosque Comunitario de Río Hondo. They recognized that the place has great ecological and recreational value, not only for the community, but for the entire municipality and the enjoyment of the entire population. This forest is the first of its kind in Puerto Rico to receive funds from the Community Forests and Open Spaces Program through State and Private Forestry. The property is 90% forested and consists of a secondary forest, as a result of the abandonment of previous agricultural uses.

Image CaptionRio Hondo Community members of the board of directors and personnel from Instiute joined in the forest acquisition festivities.

The president of the community forest board, Betsy Acevedo, expressed with joy that "you have to give action to dreams, you have to be resilient with them. A 10-year struggle today has become a reality," she said referring to the acquisition of the forest.

The Fire Department of Puerto Rico was recognized in the activity for its work in the forest after the passage of hurricanes Irma and María. The recognition was granted by Acevedo, in addition to Magaly Figueroa, Director of State and Private Forestry in Puerto Rico, and Dr. Ariel Lugo, Director of the International Institute of Tropical Forestry. Before the celebration of the activity, Lugo acknowledged that the Community Forest of Río Hondo is "the best example that I know of a community development in Puerto Rico."

Likewise, Nausheen Iqbal, representative of the Community Forests and Open Spaces Program in Washington DC, recognized the educational, economic, ecological and recreational value of the forest, as well as congratulating the community's organizational potential to make this project a reality. "This really showcases how the community comes together to conserve a green space within an urban area. There is a big range of benefits for the community," she said.

The University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez has numerous ongoing research projects within the forest. In it, there are valuable hydrological sources that nourish the forests and mangroves of the western and southern area of Puerto Rico. The community competed with many other projects at a national level, and it was precisely this hydrological value that made its proposal much more valuable to others.

In the activity, people of all ages participated in the guided tours through the trails and learned about the ecological value of the forest. Interns from the Student Conservation Association (SCA) program also helped with the participation of children in the different activities carried out in the forest, such as the identification of species, among others.

The Institute's mission is to develop and disseminate scientifically-based knowledge that contributes to the conservation of forests, wildlife, and watersheds of the American tropics in the context of environmental change.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains world-renowned forestry research and wildland fire management organizations. National forests and grasslands contribute more than $30 billion to the American economy annually and support nearly 360,000 jobs. These lands also provide 30 percent of the nation's surface drinking water to cities and rural communities; approximately 60 million Americans rely on drinking water that originated from the National Forest System.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).

Page last modified: 04/17/2019