El Yunque National forest planner receives Federal Employee of the Year award in Puerto Rico

Pedro Rios, El Yunque National Forest, is recognized by Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner and the Federal Executive Association of Puerto Rico as Employee of the Year, June 19, 2017. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Krupp, USDA.

ATLANTA, Ga. – Pedro Rios, Forest Ecosystem and Planning Team Leader on the El Yunque National Forest, received the Federal Employee of the Year award from the Federal Executive Association of Puerto Rico during their 2017 annual meeting.

Rios is a professional hydrologist in charge of planning and management of the ecosystem conditions of the agency’s only tropical forest. He was recognized for his innovative leadership particularly in working on the El Yunque Forest Plan revision and his efforts in collaboration and community involvement in the conservation of natural resources and contributions to economic development opportunities. An example of this was the development of the Community Interface Resource Management Area in the Forest Plan which provides for more shared stewardship opportunities connecting portions of the forest to surrounding communities. In addition, Rios was instrumental in developing an agreement between the Forest and a local nongovernment organization, Vitrina Solidaria, to help provide training, support and capacity building for sustainable and socially responsible micro-enterprises to contribute to economic development opportunities in local communities.

Rios led an interdisciplinary team with community participation, collaboration and support during the four year planning effort as an early adopter Forest under the 2012 Planning Rule. A citizen’s committee, organized during the planning process with representatives from different organizations and local residents, worked with the Forest Service to consider climate, ecological and socioeconomic changes, and the integration of the Forest with neighboring communities, to guide the management of the Forest for the next 20 years.

“It has been challenging and rewarding to work in collaboration with members of the community and consider their interests in the conservation and management of the Forest following the principles of ecological, social and economic sustainability,” said Rios. “This is a great honor for me not only to be recognized personally, but also for my work with the agency. I was proud to wear the Forest Service uniform when receiving this award.”

During the ceremony Rios also received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from Honorable Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner.

“Pedro is a humble and brilliant person who has clearly earned people's respect,” Sharon Wallace, Forest Supervisor remarked. “He is deeply dedicated to El Yunque National Forest and the people who value this special place and all that the land offers.”