On April 26, 2021, Para la Naturaleza was awarded over $2.5 million for the Río Grande de Arecibo Restoration Initiative. PLN, NRCS and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are partnering to restore and enhance habitat for six listed species in the Rio Grande de Arecibo watershed.
Targeted species include the Sirajo goby (Sycidium spp.), the Puerto Rican crested toad (Peltophryne lemur) and the tiny Coqui llanero (Eleutherodactylus juanariveroi) frog. The forest restoration efforts, targeted to private forest and agricultural lands, will also help reduce sediment and pollutant runoff and promote the establishment of agroforestry systems in the watershed.
“I am very proud about the strong partnership between the NRCS, FWS, Para La Naturaleza and the private landowners and volunteers in Puerto Rico that will make this project a success,” said Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, FWS Regional Director in Atlanta, GA. “This partnership will enhance habitats for many species and will also enhance the ecosystems on the lands of the Taínos for future generations of the people of Puerto Rico,” Miranda-Castro added.
The Río Grande de Arecibo (RGA) watershed lies in the heart of Puerto Rico's karst region and has great value for its aquatic and terrestrial resources that provide water for human uses, groundwater and surface reservoirs, forested areas, ecological corridors between private and public lands, aquatic connectivity and support traditional fisheries. The watershed is composed of a complex interconnected wetland system providing the primary corridor between terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystems. At a landscape level, the RGA watershed harbors essential habitat for fish and wildlife species, including several State and Federal Trust species.
RGA was selected in 2016 by Para la Naturaleza, the PR Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and federal partners (NOAA, NRCS, Forest Service and USFWS) as the top local priority conservation watershed due to its current and potential land/water connectivity and the scarcity of cross agency plans for the area. This RCPP project expects to impact the following areas in the targeted geographic region:
- Environment: conserve, protect and enhance habitats for the benefit of communities, improving their access to drinking water, providing recreational areas, assisting with flood amelioration and enhancing biological corridors between natural and managed habitats.
- Economy: protecting natural resources that play a vital role in the health of our communities, their economy, history and culture. Fishing and recreational activities in riverine areas generate income supporting local economies that were heavily impacted by hurricanes Irma and María in 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Society: outreach and education of participants through the engagement of local farmers in conservation activities, particularly reforestation and monitoring activities, helps them understand their role in habitat conservation.
The identified conservation actions will be implemented at a regional landscape-level to promote ecosystem functionality.
- Objective 1: Restore and promote the sustainable use of natural resources on a watershed scale within agricultural lands and nonindustrial private forestlands, including wetlands and riparian habitats, located in the targeted region. Target metric: reforestation of 50,000 native trees including trust-listed species.
- Objective 2: Develop and promote conservation practices implementation to mitigate resource concerns, along with the recovery, and enhance of the resources within agricultural lands and nonindustrial private forestlands to establish new populations of targeted species, protect and minimize impacts to targeted species and their habitats, reduce sediment and pollutant runoff, establish agroforestry systems, establish transitional biological corridors, and control and eradicate invasive exotic plants and animals. Target metric: conservation efforts for 6 listed species:
- Sirajo goby (Sycidium spp.),
- Coqui llanero (Eleutherodactylus juanariveroi),
- Puerto Rican crested toad (Peltophryne lemur),
- Palma de manaca (Calyptronoma rivalis),
- Beautiful goetzea (Goetzea elegans),
- Cobana negra (Stahlia monosperma).
- Objective 3: Engage local farmers and communities in species and habitat recovery through volunteer monitoring activities that can help educate on short- and long-term conservation goals. Target metric: engagement of 35 farmers.
- Soil: Bank erosion from streams, shorelines, or water conveyance channels; Soil organism habitat loss or degradation.
- Water: Nutrients transported to ground and surface waters; Pesticides transported to ground and surface waters; Sediment transported to surface waters; and Elevated water temperature.
- Plants & Animals: Plant structure and composition; Terrestrial habitat for wildlife and invertebrates; Aquatic habitat for fish and other organisms.
- Enhance habitat for aquatic and wildlife species,
- Control sediment and erosion,
- Improve water quality,
- Manage nutrients and waste,
- Stabilize stream banks,
- Establish practices to mitigate disturbances (wildfire and wind impact),
- Restore forests and habitats considering native species and promoting agroforestry practices to improve resiliency in the region,
- Restore habitat for targeted species,
- Remove debris and obstructions, and
- Establish new populations of targeted threatened and endangered plant species.
The RCPP focuses on locally-led public-private partnership efforts to deliver conservation solutions that help to protect important drinking water supplies, provide critical habitat for many at-risk species, enhance environmental markets, make farms and ranches more resilient, and address important waterways.