Jason Rodríguez Grafal (La Perla del Sur) reports that 11,000 cuerdas [around 10,683 acres] of dry forest is at risk. This is the case of the protected dry forest of Guánica, on the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico. Rodríguez Grafal says that only three full-time employees cover an area of almost 40 kilometers in length, a critical deficiency that—in the case of a large-scale forest fire—threatens the most diverse ecosystem in Puerto Rico.
As veteran biologist and forester Miguel Canals Mora warns, signs are already emerging from a severe drought, this year an added problem is the limited staff assigned to the natural reserve. As he explained, an adequate response to detect and control the fire could take hours, during which time the disaster could wipe out dozens of acres vegetation and protected species.
Declared a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations in 1981, the Dry Forest is the country’s heritage and is the best preserved subtropical forest in the Caribbean.
Notwithstanding, for years, the number of technicians assigned to the property has been pushed to historical lows, so now only three full-time employees watch an ecologically sensitive area of almost 40 kilometers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Right now there are three employees who take turns attending the public and tourists who go to the area of Camp Borinquen, but there are no employees in Manglillo, Gilligan, La Jungla, Jaboncillo or Tamarindo,” denounced Canals Mora. “And there are a lot of maintenance tasks that have not been carried out in recent years on work that is required for its preservation,” added the veteran biologist.
To make matters worse, for months, the forest does not have a Director of Property Management. Instead, the work has fallen on the lap of the director of the Division of Forest Management of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DRNA), Darien López.
[. . .] Likewise, monitoring capacity has been decimated by the disastrous state of the vehicle fleet of the Ranger Corps and its Maritime Unit, Canals Mora added.
“There is a serious problem of lack of vigilance. The Maritime Unit of the Ranger Corps no longer exists, therefore, there is no longer any type of patrol in areas like Gilligan,” he continued. “Gilligan is a no man’s land, basically. They do not have boats, they do not have a jet ski, or even vehicles most of the time.” [. . .] “In the area of the abandoned rice project (also in Guánica) weeds have grown and the area is getting very dry. There was already a fairly large fire (there recently),” he added.
However, that is not the only area of concern. As indicated by Canals Mora, 22 properties that are susceptible to fires have already been identified—including the area from Jaboncillo to Tamarindo. [. . .]
Finally, Canals Mora exhorted the DRNA to take proactive measures, such as the creation of fire barriers to minimize the exposure of the Dry Forest to new fires.
“Preventative burning was effective for many years. By the end of February, we isolated areas of grasses on the PR-116 highway and burned them tactically to avoid vandalism during the night and to prevent fires from reaching the forest area,” he said. [. . .]
Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full article, see https://www.periodicolaperla.com/en-riesgo-11-mil-cuerdas-de-terreno-del-bosque-seco-de-guanica/