• The San Juan Daily Star

El Yunque partners with 5 NGOs for northeastern development

By John McPhaul

El Yunque National Forest and a coalition of five non-profit organizations signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to collaborate on various projects that facilitate community empowerment, shared stewardship, conservation, and co-management of natural resources, as well as promotion of tourism and economic activity in the northeast region.

El Yunque National Forest Supervisor Keenan Adams said Vitrina Solidaria, Love in Motion, Para la Naturaleza, Fundación Amigos del Yunque and Corazón Latino recently formed as a coalition to work in the zones designated as community resource management areas (CIRMAs). The CIRMA emerged as a concept during the planning process and public consultation for the revised land management plan.

“CIRMA represents a new business model for the federal government’s collaboration with local nonprofits and communities,” Adams said. “Over the past nine years we have actively engaged our communities and they made clear to us their desire to benefit from El Yunque and improve their well-being. The Forest Service knew that we were not fully equipped, that we needed partners who could be more effective and efficient to achieve results without the bureaucracy. Together, we created a collaboration that leverages each other’s strengths. The people, El Yunque National Forest, and the organizations are now co-creating solutions that give the communities voice, protect natural resources, and allow non-profits opportunities to achieve their missions. This MOU is our commitment to the social, ecological, and economic systems of the El Yunque region.”

Raquel Skerrett-Escalera, executive director of the startup accelerator Vitrina Solidaria, said CIRMA members are in the first phase of work, which consists of evaluating assets (identification, gaps, and areas for improvement in the nine municipalities that border El Yunque: Canóvanas, Río Grande, Luquillo, Fajardo, Ceiba, Naguabo, Humacao, Las Piedras and Juncos, and planning for project development.

Initially, three economic development projects were identified within a variety of recreational opportunities in the Río Sabana area in Naguabo, Pico del Toro in Canóvanas, and the former Roosevelt Roads naval base in Ceiba.

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