PUERTO RICO – The Puerto Rico Municipality of Mayaguez, in partnership with the community-based nonprofit organization “Proyecto Agro Eco Turístico del Barrio Rio Hondo Inc.” (Estampas), acquired 67.9 acres of land last September for the establishment of a community forest. This forest is the first one of its kind in Puerto Rico to receive funds from the Community Forest and Open Space Program through State and Private Forestry.
This project is a result of community and local government efforts to acquire, manage and preserve the forest for long-term basis. It is the only large block of continuous forest in the area. The property is 90% forested and consists of post- abandonment secondary forest as a result of abandonment of previous agricultural uses. The community forest will serve the Rio Hondo Community in Mayaguez and the rest of the island.
After the establishment of the project, the multiple community, economic, environmental, social and recreational benefits will be maximized. The community around is densely populated and there are ongoing housing development projects. The project can save the land from threats related to non-forest uses. With the project, the development of a one-of-a kind agro-ecotourism project will take place to promote eco-friendly practices and sustainable forest management to the general public. Business opportunities will also be created through the possibilities of rental of conference room facilities, guided tours and bird watching, among others.
Magaly Figueroa, Community Forest Program Manager at IITF in PR, helped with technical assistance and funds. IITF has been a crucial part of this project; monitoring activities, identifying key personnel, and providing essential information, among other duties. The University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez and Estampas are working on the development of the community forest management plan, expected to be completed by the end of December.