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Preserving the Northeast Ecological Corridor

by Camilla F.

The Northeast Ecological Corridor, protected as a Nature Reserve in April 2008, lies between the towns of Luquillo and Fajardo on Puerto Rico's northeastern shoreline. 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 over 850 species, 50 of them endemic and threatened, and its beaches are one of the three most important nesting sites for the leatherback sea turtle in the U.S. The leatherback, or Tinglar in Spanish, is the largest marine turtle in the world and like all sea turtles is an endangered species. Despite it’s designation as a Nature Reserve the Corridor is still under pressure from local developers who want to build over 4,000 luxury homes, two mega-hotels and three golf courses.

Over the last ten years community leaders have worked together to see the area protected. Despite earning the designation as a Nature Reserve the local Planning Board has not yet approved the management plan for the area and so the community can not move forward with its plans to attract visitors to the area through eco-tourism and to develop adjacent communities as gateways to the Corridor.

None the less, members of the Coalition for the Northeast Ecological Corridor, the Sierra Club of Puerto Rico and Global Works a service, travel organization for students braved the blazing tropical sun on August 8th, to update our mural which features the Leatherback Turtle and calls for the protection of the Corridor. The mural is an important way of letting the public know what natural treasures are at risk. On Sunday volunteers continued their work with a trash clean up within the Nature Reserve. Trash pick up is important for the turtles which often mistake plastic for jelly fish which is their main sustenance.

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