• The Star Staff

Environmental groups denounce tree felling

By John McPhaul


Ciudadanos del Karso (CDK), Para la Naturaleza and other community and environmental organizations in Puerto Rico have joined to denounce the irresponsible felling of trees on a large number of lands under Puerto Rico National Parks Co. supervision.

Among the sites in question are the zoo in Mayagüez (Zoológico de Mayagüez), spas such as Cerro Gordo in Vega Alta, Cavernas del Río Camuy National Park, urban parks such as Julio Monagas in Bayamón and resorts such as Monte del Estado in Maricao.

According to a press release, the logging coincides with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) allegedly making millions of dollars available to the government of Puerto Rico, which in turn has hired private companies to carry out the work. The contractors claim that the trees are sick or pose a danger; however, they do not present any evidence of the condition that allegedly afflicts them, the organization said.

“Interestingly, companies are paid by the volume of trees cut, so the ones that have suffered the most are the large trees,” CDK President Abel Vale said Tuesday. “We demand that the governor, the secretary of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources [DNER] and FEMA stop this heinous massacre.”

Fernando Lloveras San Miguel, president of Para la Naturaleza, added that “requiring contractors to determine which trees to cut and then paying for the volume of what they cut would be a serious conflict of interest.”

“Nature cannot be at the mercy of hired mercenaries,” he said. “Trees in natural areas or national parks require responsible and sensitive management. This management must be planned according to the conditions of each tree, defining long-term objectives aimed at protecting the forest, the species that make trees their home and the safety of visitors.”

The organizations created a petition for citizens to sign on the Change.org platform. In addition, they sent letters to all of the candidates for governor to draw their attention to the mass felling of trees and requesting that they join the urgent demand that the operations be stopped until an evaluation is conducted by experts, such as ecologists and arborists and physiologists, independent of the agencies involved.

Community groups have been active in documenting the logging with photos and video, and sharing that record with organizations to support the complaint.

“As the citizens have responded, with commitment and haste, we expect an immediate and forceful response, both from the governor, as well as from the DNER, from FEMA and from those who aspire to lead Puerto Rico,” Vale said. “First the amendments to the Joint Regulations and now this. Enough of so much mistreatment of Puerto Rico’s natural systems.”

So far, some 2,000 people have signed the petition to stop the indiscriminate felling of trees in the forest parks of Puerto Rico, the groups said. Citizens interested in supporting the petition can sign it by visiting Change.org.

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