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State and Private Forestry fills the gap for farmers in Puerto Rico

PUERTO RICO – After mostly recovering from the catastrophic damage caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, local farmers and landowners in Puerto Rico’s east region are working together with State and Private Forestry partners to improve the condition and sustainability of their farms. These efforts are focused in the restoration of habitats next to El Yunque National Forest, also used by wildlife species as green corridors.

The unit, part of the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, is assisting the region recover. The unit is receiving help from Centro de Conservación del Paisaje, a non-profit focusing on the protection, restoration and improvement of the landscape for the sustainable use of natural resources. Together, they are helping landowners manage their lands, increasing agroforestry and ecotourism practices that will aid in promoting important ecological zones for endangered species.

Up in the mountains –but not far from the coast—between the municipalities of Ceiba and Naguabo, Julia Ramirez, engineer by profession, is working with CCP on creating a management plan for a 19 acres area that was once proposed as an urbanization development project. Now, Ramirez is working along with CCP to create a sustainable area for agriculture, ecotourism and improved habitats for important wildlife species, as the land is in the vicinity of El Yunque area.

Moving northeast to her farm, we reach Angel Rivera Algarín, who has been working on his land for almost 30 years now. CCP and SPF have been giving Algarín technical assistance, providing mentoring and connections with other agencies, like NRCS. One of the most important contributions was creating a map for his farm. CCP also helped Rivera Algarín identify other potential economic resources in his property, including agritourism, sustainable wood harvesting and seed recollection.

Apart from these specific examples, CPP has been reaching out to other communities across the periphery of El Yunque, such as Barcelona, Palmer and La Vega, to ensure there is integration of the communities, landowners and farmers around the forest area when thinking of management plans, to ensure both private and public sectors are working together towards the same conservation goals.

Man and woman standing in the field
Julia Ramirez and Edgardo Gonzalez from CCP discussing the plan to create a sustainable area for agriculture and ecotourism in the vicinity of El Yunque area. USDA Forest Service photo.
Two mwn sitting, conversing
Ángel Rivera Algarín has received helped from CPP to identify other potential economic resources in his property, including agritourism, sustainable wood harvesting and seed recollection. USDA Forest Service photo.
Troipical rainforest garden in Puerto Rico
Example of a garden at La Vega community, in Puerto Rico, that connects to El Yunque National Forest. This garden has benefitted from the restoration efforts lead by ITTF and CCP after hurricanes Irma and Maria. USDA Forest Service photo.