Friday, November 9, 2012

Deforestation; Isla Verde Marine Reserve; Educational exhibit; New hires; Short-film festival; Wetland filling; Pubic service campaign; La Esperanza cleanup and planting

The new generation of environmentalists in action!

Community leader Pedro Carrión (white t-shirt) was in charge of the planting component of the event.

We use flora species to help prevent and mitigate coastal erosion. 

Volunteers crossing a small channel to get to the Esperanza Island.

Father and daughter performing water quality monitoring tests.

Refurbished educational exhibit at the Enrique Martí Park, part of the Martín Peña Channel.

Alexis Milinares offering an interpretative tour using our educational exhibit.

Children participated on the educational exhibit inauguration.

The San Juan Bay Estuary Program’s highlights for September 17th to November 1st, 2012, are as follow:

1) SJBEP draws attention to multiple deforestation incidents: Our Executive Director raised concerns through the local media about several deforestation incidents that are taking place along the watershed’s very limited green areas. In an article written by journalist Gerardo Alvarado León, the organization called attention to the more than 150 trees that have been cut down from the shores of the Condado Lagoon, as well as other urban deforestation incidents such as those along the Margarita Canal, the mangrove forests along Kennedy Avenue, Baldorioty Avenue near the airport, and Stop 18 in Santurce.

Dr. Laureano highlighted the fact that some of these trees were between 60 and 70 years old, served to mitigate floods, and acted as natural biofilters that help keep our waters clean. Below is a link to the article:

2)  Isla Verde Reef Island Becomes a Marine Reserve!: After years of hard work by community leader Paco López, the Isla Verde Reef Island has become a Marine Reserve. López collected thousands of signatures, visited elected officials, made presentations, and founded a nonprofit organization to make his community’s dream a reality. Click on the links below for more information:

3)  Permanent environmental exhibit inaugurated at the Enrique Martí Coll Linear Park: On October 27, 2012, as part of the reopening of the 1.5-mile Enrique Martí Coll Linear Park, the SJBEP unveiled its newest educational exhibit. The display consists of six educational modules and three wooden platforms showcasing the Estuary’s hydrological basin, estuarine fauna and flora, and ways in which the public can help protect the ecosystems. An interpretative trail containing 30 illustrations designed by Adriana Ocaña is yet to be installed along the 1.5 miles of the Lineal Park.

We thank the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the PR Parks Company for their support of this educational initiative.

4)  Habitat restoration activity at La Esperanza Islet: 850 pounds of debris recovered: As part of Banco Popular’s Make the Difference Day, on October 27, 2012, a group of 53 volunteers gathered at La Esperanza Islet, located in the San Juan Bay-Cataño Municipality, to perform a series of habitat restoration activities.

The group retrieved 850 pounds of trash from the ecosystem. Other volunteers planted 50 icaco plants on the Islet to help minimize the effects of coastal erosion. Another group performed water quality monitoring tests with our Water Quality Monitoring Coordinator, Ernesto Olivares.

We thank Ramón Lloveras San Miguel, Board- and Founding Member of the SJBEP, and the Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency, Crowley Maritime Corporation, and the Corredor del Yaguazo community organization, for their support of this ongoing initiative.

5) Javier Laureano delivers a presentation at the Caribbean Landscape Conservation Cooperative Conference: On Thursday, November 1st, Dr. Javier Laureano, SJBEP’s Executive Director, offered a conference to a group of 150 environmental professionals and students, centering on our organization’s ecological conservation projects. The activity was organized by the US Department of Agriculture, as well as several other federal agencies.

6)  SJBEP’s new public service campaign begins with strong newspaper support; SJBEP thanks GFR Media Group: In October of 2012, the organization’s new environmental literacy public service campaign went public via two of Puerto Rico’s leading newspapers, El Nuevo Día and Primera Hora. Designed by Marina Rivón, the new campaign features Adriana Ocaña’s scientific illustrations of some the Estuary’s most recognized species such as the fiddler crab, the leatherback turtle, and the fishing bat. We thank the GFR Media Group for their support of our organization and of environmental education in Puerto Rico.

7)  Water Quality Monitoring Training: On October 31st, 2012, the SJBEP offered an introductory workshop to a group of 17 volunteers interested in participating in our Water Quality Monitoring Program. After completing a total of 48 hours of fieldwork the volunteers will receive certification from our Estuary’s Program. Gladys Rivera and Ernesto Olivares coordinated the activity.

8) The SJBEP participates in the Association of National Estuaries Program (ANEP) and Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) meetings: From October 19th to the 25th, Gladys Rivera and Jorge Bauzá attended the RAE biennial conference, and Javier Laureano the NEP annual meeting. Both events were held in Tampa, Florida, and they shed light on different restoration initiatives that are being implemented in estuary systems across the United States.

As part of the RAE meeting Dr. Jorge Bauzá presented a poster about the restoration initiatives of the San Juan Bay Estuary Program.

9) SJBEP’s new hires: During the month of October, 2012, our organization contracted several new persons who will support the implementation of our Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.  We want to welcome:

Javier CardonaEducation Manager: We are pleased to announce that Cardona has joined the San Juan Bay Estuary Program after spending seven years in New York City, where he worked for the rehabilitation of maximum-security prisoners, and as an Education professor at New York University. Javier Cardona is also a known performer, dancer, and artist. He has integrated environmental issues, such as the importance of Red mangroves, into his artistic endeavors.  Cardona is a member of the Board of Directors of the environmental group I-Land.

Eliván MartínezCommunications and public relations: One of the leading investigative reporters on the Island, Martínez will support our communications efforts to convey the urgent need of restoring water quality and our urban ecosystems. Martínez recently won a grant from the Center for Investigative Journalism to do research on Puerto Rico’s “green taxes.” As part of his complex and extensive career, Eliván Martínez has covered a wide range of environmental issues, from front-page news to travel and ecotourism.

Isabel RosaGrant writer: Rosa is a lawyer and economist with lots of enthusiasm for grant writing – work wich she has been successfully performing for nearly ten years. Her grant writing experience includes a working relationship with several federal agencies, including the Housing and Urban Development.

Ángel GuevaresCapetillo Urban Forest and Vegetable Garden Coordinator: Guevares is a young community and environmental leader. He organized his environmental justice community, Capetillo, to clean up a massive illegal dump atop two creeks.  What began as only a cleanup turned into a true environmental success in his community.  Guevares went to the University of Puerto Rico and established an alliance that helped the community to transform the 2-acre illegal dump known as Isla del Diablo (Devil’s Island) into an urban forest and vegetable garden. He will work with us to keep transforming Isla del Diablo into an urban forest and improve the water quality of the two creeks. We are proud to have Ángel Guevares (“Gelo”) as part of our team!

10) Successful Second Estuarine Short-Film Festival: As part of The Estuary’s Cinema initiative, this September the SJBEP held its Second Estuarine Short-Film Festival. The festival promotes local productions concerned with environmental issues. This year’s first prize went to David Moscoso, who documented a public art installation and performance directed by artist Dhara Rivera. Other prizes were awarded to “Piedras: Memorias de un río urbano” and “Tierra de la buena.” The first is an oral history account of the transformation of the Río Piedras, and the second a piece based on a compost workshop prepared by university students for a group of elementary school children.

11) The SJBEP raises concern regarding wetland filling and destruction plans near the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport: Javier Laureano presented the SJBEP’s concerns regarding the elimination of 24.5 acres of wetland and other green areas at La Marina zone to develop an industrial park. In a letter submitted to Rubén Flores Marzán, head of Puerto Rico’s Planning Board, the organization commented on consult 2012-20-0076-JGT-MA. As the letter points out, these wetlands, located minutes from the Airport, are necessary to help mitigate floods by absorbing vast quantities of rainfall.

These plans go against strategies HW-5, HW-16, WS-9, and WS-12, concerning water quality and habitat restoration, contained in our Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.

After Tropical Storm Sandy’s flooding of John F. Kennedy Airport, we hope that local authorities in the United States and Puerto Rico begin to understand the importance of wetlands to our cities.

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