Saving Dominican forest and an elusive songbird

An elusive songbird that wings its way each year from austere mountaintops of the northeastern United States to the steamy forests of the Caribbean has inspired the creation of what conservationists hope will be a new model for nature reserves in the Dominican Republic, which has long struggled with deforestation—the Associated Press reports.

The reserve is taking shape in a lushly overgrown former cattle ranch measuring about 1,000 acres, at the edge of a deep green forest in the Dominican Republic’s rugged northeast. Conservation-minded Dominican and U.S. investors have acquired the plot as a pilot project, hoping to protect what they say is a global biodiversity hot spot that’s home to dozens of threatened species.

The government sees the reserve as a potential example that such land can be put to better uses than burning down the trees to convert it to pasture. That’s the typical approach in the Caribbean country, with only about 40 percent of its forest cover left. Neighboring Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola, has virtually none of its forest standing.

“We are trying to create a model and break the cycle of destruction,” said Jesus Moreno, a Dominican businessman whose family is partially funding the reserve.

A main goal of the reserve is to protect the zorzal migratorio, known in English as the Bicknell’s thrush. It divides its time between the Caribbean islands and mountaintop forests in the northeastern United States and southern Canada. The bird is considered vulnerable, with an estimated fewer than 100,000 in the wild, said Chris Rimmer, an ornithologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies who helped establish the reserve. “It’s much bigger than just this one little migratory songbird,” Rimmer said.

For the original report go to

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