Mayagüez community celebrates acquisition of community forest

PUERTO RICO—The community of Río Hondo celebrated in Mayagüez the acquisition of its community forest, a fight that the residents of the community have been holding for 10 years.

                                                           

Over 300 people from the community, alongside other invitees, gathered on Friday, March 22, to celebrate the rescue of the 67.9 acres of land. The place was attended by representatives of public and private entities, including representation of the Mayor of Mayagüez, José Guillermo Rodríguez. Other notable atTendees included representatives from the PR Fire Department, the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez, as well as other community groups and local artisans.

                                                           

The place has great ecological and recreational value, not only for the community, but for the entire municipality and the enjoyment of the entire population. This forest is the first of its kind in Puerto Rico to receive funds from the Community Forests and Open Spaces program through State and Private Forestry. The property is 90% forested and consists of a secondary forest, as a result of the abandonment of previous agricultural uses.

                                                           

The president of the community forest board, Betsy Acevedo, expressed with joy that "you have to give action to dreams, you have to be resilient with them. A 10-year struggle today has become a reality," she said referring to the acquisition of the forest.

                                                                                                                       

Likewise, Nausheen Iqbal, representative of the Community Forests and Open Spaces program in Washington DC, recognized the educational, economic, ecological and recreational value of the forest, as well as congratulating the community's organizational potential to make this project a reality. "This really showcases how the community comes together to conserve a green space within an urban area. There is a big range of benefits for the community," she said.

                                                           

The University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez has numerous ongoing research projects within the forest. In it, there are valuable hydrological sources that nourish the forests and mangroves of the western and southern area of Puerto Rico. The community competed with many other projects at a national level, and it was precisely this hydrological value that made its proposal much more valuable to others.    

White banner with the words Welcome to the Rio Hondo Community Forest written in Spanish
Rio Hondo Community in Mayagüez celebrated the acquisition of its community forest. USDA Forest Service photo.
Group picture of Rio Hondo Community board of directors and personnel from IITF posing around a Smokey Bear giant stuffed bear
Rio Hondo Community members of the board of directors and personnel from FS-IITF joined in the forest acquisition festivities. USDA Forest Service photo.