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America's "Island of Enchantment": Environmental Hazards and Hope in Puerto Rico [Slide Show]

Politicians, business leaders and environmentalists wrangle over the island's environmental future

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FIDEICOMISO AS FUTURE:

Despite the threats to Puerto Rico's paradise, there are also many reasons to feel more hopeful than ever about the island's future. In addition to the growth of the Sierra Club and the short but impressive history of successful activism by groups like Casa Pueblo, the most comprehensive and effective advocate for Puerto Rico's environment is the Fideicomiso (or Conservation Trust) of Puerto Rico.....[ More ]

AMIBVALENT ENVIRONMENTALISM

In 2007, Puerto Rico's El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the United States, was nominated to become one of the so-called New 7 Wonders of Nature, spurring a massive publicity campaign.....[ More ]

INTERIOR INSECURITY:

All but unknown by tourists and overlooked by developers, Puerto Rico's mountainous interior is a lush, largely undeveloped area. The region is crucial to environmental stability, one reason being that its rivers are the primary source of water for more than one-quarter of the island's residents.....[ More ]

COFFEE CULTURE:

Eco- and agrotourism could be a vital source of income, say environmentalists and a fledgling group of business owners, including the founders of Hacienda El Jibarito, the island's first agrotourism resort.....[ More ]

BIOLUMINESCENT BAYS:

The threats to Puerto Rico's environment aren't just on land. Puerto Rico is home to three of the world's bioluminescent bays; visiting these has traditionally been a popular tourist activity. Due to the confluence of ideal conditions—narrow entries to the bays; shallow depths; warm water; and the density of the luminescent dinoflagellates—the three bays put on a watery light show in Fajardo, Vieques and La Parguera.....[ More ]

POPULAR PROTESTS:

The environmental movement in Puerto Rico is relatively young. Although there are some notable exceptions—including self-described revolutionary environmentalist Tito Kayak, known for staging dramatic activist events, such as scaling a construction crane, living on it for one week, and then rappelling from the crane and into a kayak on the water below to avoid police capture—organized environmentalism is not even a decade old.....[ More ]

NORTHEAST CORRIDOR:

In 2007, then-governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá designated more than 3,000 acres of Puerto Rico's northeastern coast as a protected "Ecological Corridor," signing the final order into law in April 2008.....[ More ]

COASTAL CONSTRUCTION:

As the three cranes in this photo suggest, coastal real estate is in high demand in Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, which is located on the island's northeast shore. Still more cranes are barely visible in the background.....[ More ]

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