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DNER ranger decries lowering of Jobos Bay fines


House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Edgar Feliciano

By The Star Staff


Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) rangers imposed fines of $250,000 on the individuals who invaded the Jobos Bay reserve in Salinas, but the agency’s Legal Division reduced the fines $3,000 after a negotiation with lawyers representing the violators.


The information came out Wednesday during a public hearing.


Ranger Sgt. Ángel Colón Colón said the decision demoralized the workers and law enforcement officers.


“Because if the initial cease and desist had fines of around $250,000, that is, we are talking about a quarter of a million dollars in fines, which is very clearly specified in this report, how come after two or three years, a resolution is passed saying that those fines were lowered to nothing more than $3,000,” he said. “Can you understand how we as officers are going to feel after we intervene in a high-risk area and a bucket of cold water like that hits us? Without even [consulting] me, who was the intervening agent, or the biologist Milton Muñoz, who was the one who made the case report.”


Colón pointed out that the fines were reduced under the administration of former DNER Secretary Tania Vázquez.


Meanwhile, officials affirmed that the DNER did not have surveyors.


The statements came after the continuation of the public hearings being held by the Natural Resources Committee of the House of Representatives in relation to the environmental violations at the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in the southern coastal town.


Muñoz, a DNER biologist, pointed out that the felling of trees in the area was so massive that it was estimated that 732 trees have been cut down in recent years.


Committee Chairman Edgardo Feliciano said Vázquez and former DNER Secretary Rafael Machargo Maldonado were summoned to appear Thursday before the House panel.

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