Continued construction endangers Puerto Rico’s mangrove forests
Southern Puerto Rico is home to one of the largest mangrove forests in the US territory. Recently, Puerto Rico’s builders have been under fire due to the illegal construction that has been taking place in the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, an ecological reserve and protected forest.
The Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has been designated since 1981 and many different habitats and species are found in the reserve, including endangered brown pelicans, peregrine falcons, hawksbill turtles, and West Indian manatees. Many of the species occupying the reserve are rare, and some species are either endangered or at risk of becoming endangered.
Allegedly, 3,600 mangrove trees have been cut down as many locals fear that the US territory is now more prone to climate change and worsening natural disasters.
The construction has been taking place for a while. Builders have been constructing homes in these protected areas due to many slip-throughs. Lax governmental supervision, low budgeting and expenditure, and illegally-issued building permits have all given builders more freedom.
The lead agency for the reserve is Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. Environmentalists and local citizens in Puerto Rico are outraged by the agency’s handling of the situation and its lack of supervision and care over the past few years.
The secretary of the natural resources department in Puerto Rico has recently resigned, following the outrage. He had recently told a news station that many who worked for the department were receiving death threats due to their involvement.
Puerto Rico’s Department of Justice has initiated a criminal investigation across the territory to look into the issue, and members of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives addressed these issues with a public hearing on April 27, 2022. The Justice Department is producing eviction mandates against those living in Jobos Bay and has also made petitions for the demolition of the current homes on the reserve.