Reforestation bill seeks to build on post-Hurricane Maria effort
Rep. José Aponte Hernández
By THE STAR STAFF
In order to conserve the island’s natural resources, Rep. José Aponte Hernández has filed House Bill 1419, which aims at the planting of trees and other greenery that contribute to the reforestation of both urban and rural areas.
The measure creates the “Sowing Life” program for the reforestation and protection of flora, to meet the urgent need to promote the planting of trees and all kinds of suitable plants, giving special emphasis to watersheds. The legislation also allocates $10 million for five years for that purpose.
“We believe that projects such as Sembrando Futuro must be established as part of the efforts of this Legislature in order to, together with the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), gradually achieve the objectives that have been set regarding the necessary plant strengthening in both urban and rural areas, but more importantly, along the main hydrographic areas of the island,” Aponte Hernández said.
In 2018, the uncompleted Sembrando Futuro project began, which sought to develop the reforestation of the 134 hydrographic basins of Puerto Rico that were devastated by the onslaught of Hurricane Maria. On that occasion, the goal was to plant 500,000 trees during the subsequent five years. The initiative marked the beginning of reforestation efforts following the events of 2017.
However, that initiative must be supported by others that allow the reconstruction of vegetation in the main watersheds of Puerto Rico,” the former House speaker said.
“It is of utmost importance to embrace and reinforce projects of this nature that seek to minimize the direct consequences of global warming, as well as other aggravating factors in the severe deforestation of the planet,” Aponte Hernández said.
About 95 percent of the western United States is under drought, he noted, with nearly two-thirds in extreme drought. At present, six states are completely in drought conditions. According to scientists, the unprecedented drought is a sign of how the climate crisis is affecting not only weather conditions, but also water supply, food production and electricity generation, the veteran lawmaker said.