The Puerto Rico Land Authority will preserve 1,000 acres of wetlands as part of an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The wetlands, which help prevent flooding and pollution of rivers, lakes and streams, to be preserved under the settlement are mostly in Loíza, and will now be protected from future commercial and industrial development.
The 1,000 acres of wetlands being preserved are currently leased for low impact agriculture, but could have been sold in the future for development. The Land Authority also paid a $25,000 penalty and spent $100,000 to establish a wetlands management program separate from the preservation plan.
The land will be protected through a conservation easement filed under Puerto Rico law to ensure that it will remain undeveloped forever, the EPA said.
“Protecting wetlands is a priority for EPA, especially in Puerto Rico where they are increasingly threatened by over development,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Through EPA’s settlement with the Land Authority, 1,000 acres of vital wetlands will now be preserved forever.”
The settlement is part of an initiative to address issues Canóvanas, where unpermitted housing and roads have been built on Land Authority property, including in valuable wetlands. The Land Authority owns, manages, sells and leases property throughout the island.
Wetlands are a valuable resource that naturally filter chemical contaminants from our water and land and help control floods. Wetlands also support a vast array of bird, plant, aquatic and animal life. Damaging or eliminating wetlands can be devastating to coastal ecosystems, the EPA said.
“Wetlands also provide recreational opportunities, aesthetic benefits, sites for research and education, and support fisheries. Anyone planning construction activities in wetlands or streams must contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to obtain a permit,