NOAA $1 million grant aids purchase of critical coastal habitat in Puerto Rico

Acquisition expands protected land in Reserva Natural Corredor Ecologico del Noreste

June 13, 2013

Puerto Rico.

NOAA's Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program helped acquire more than 87 acres of critical coastal habitat in Puerto Rico, that will serve to protect a wetlands, mangroves and beaches that are are also nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles.

Download here (Credit: USFWS)

A NOAA grant of $1 million has helped the territory of Puerto Rico complete the acquisition of Dos Mares, an 87-acre parcel that includes wetlands, forested wetlands, and a coastal mangrove forest.

Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) provided $2 million in matching funds for the acquisition. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contributed $500,000 to the purchase. and the Trust for Public Land also contributed other costs related to the purchase.  

The grant comes from a fiscal year 2010 grant competition held by NOAA’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP).

The acquisition of the Dos Mares parcel completes the overall San Miguel Phase III CELCP project, which included the previous purchase of a 117-acre parcel. Both properties are located within Puerto Rico’s Reserva Natural Corredor Ecológico del Noreste (Northeast Ecological Corridor Reserve), an ecologically diverse mosaic of coastal habitats including coral reefs, inter-tidal areas, wetlands, forests, mangroves, and beaches. The reserve is home to more than 800 species of flora and fauna and its pristine beaches are a popular nesting area for endangered leatherback and hawksbill turtles. Currently about 65 percent of the reserve’s 3,000 acres are in public ownership.

Puerto Rico.

Map of NOAA's Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program project area along the coast of Puerto Rico.

Download here (Credit: Google Earth)

“The Northeast Ecological Corridor is an area of high priority and importance for us. The acquisition of these lands guarantees the long-term protection of this ecologically magnificent area,” said Irma Pagán, sub-secretary of Puerto Rico DNER. “This reserve is unique because the driving force for protecting it and maintaining its natural integrity has been the community and their grass roots commitment and efforts. Partnerships with agencies like NOAA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been vital in moving forward with these efforts.”

“This NOAA conservation grant program is one of America’s best investments because it leverages funds from federal, state and private partners to acquire and protect acres of critical coastal habitat that help coastal communities and ecosystems become more resilient to climate change and human impacts,” said Margaret Davidson, acting director of NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. “We are pleased to have contributed to the protection of this critical habitat in Puerto Rico.”

The long-term protection of the Dos Mares and San Miguel properties also complements the efforts of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program to manage and protect coral reefs within the reserve. The program is currently supporting the development of a watershed plan for Rio Fajardo and an integrated marine management plan with other partners, including DNER.

NOAA’s CELCP, established by Congress in 2002 to advance the objectives of the Coastal Zone Management Act, has protected nearly 100,000 acres of critical coastal and estuarine lands in partnership with federal, state, territorial and local government agencies and private organizations.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.