USDA to invest $1M to improve traffic access to El Yunque
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who is in Puerto Rico this week, announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service will invest $1 million to improve access to El Yunque National Forest.
This investment is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to ensure rural communities have equitable access to the infrastructure and economic opportunities they need to grow and thrive, he said.
“El Yunque is a special place to the people of Puerto Rico and USDA is committed to investing in the Forest to promote visitation, recreation, and economic development — outcomes that can be maximized through collaboration and partnerships with the public and private sector,” said Vilsack.
“Improving equitable access means visitors can experience this amazing place and support rural economies on the island at the same time,” he said.
People visit El Yunque for its scenery, clear mountain rivers and outdoor recreation opportunities. About 1.2 million people visit El Yunque each year, which represents 20% of the Puerto Rican tourism economy.
Vehicle congestion in El Yunque National Forest has been a challenge for 80 years. While up to 3,000 cars look to enter each day, the Forest only has 300 parking spaces.
“El Yunque is one of the most unique forests in the world, and it is up to us to ensure access to its recreation and enjoyment for everyone,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore.
“This investment reflects our agency’s values and demonstrates our commitment to El Yunque National Forest, our neighboring communities and those who visit this special place,” More said.
In December, USDA kickstarted this effort with a $250,000 investment to develop a master transit plan to improve the visitor experience. Those engaged with this project envision a park and ride system to shuttle visitors into the Forest, allowing more people to enjoy El Yunque.
The $1 million is an additional investment as well as an invitation to public, nonprofit and private sector partners to join the Forest Service in laying the groundwork to make this vision a reality, agency officials said.
“Everyone has come together to enrich the lives of people and the communities connected to this forest,” said El Yunque National Forest Supervisor Keenan Adams.
These joint efforts between USDA, the Forest Service and Puerto Rico lay the groundwork for increased collaboration in the future, including through Shared Stewardship. This approach recognizes urgent land management challenges do not know borders or boundary lines. Through Shared Stewardship, the Forest Service works with others to find solutions and explore opportunities across management jurisdictions.
This collaborative approach to land management builds on a long history of partnerships to manage the nation’s forests and grasslands, officials added.