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Scrapbook: Club Activist Heading Up Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources

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January 23, 2013

Club Activist Heading Up Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources

Carmen-Guerrero-Pérez

Earlier this month, coalition partner and Puerto Rico Sierra Club member Carmen Guerrero Pérez, above and at right below, was nominated and sworn in by newly-elected Governor Alejandro García Padilla as Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.

Guerrero-&-new-secretaries
Photo courtesy of Sin Comillas

Pictured above, left to right, Housing Commissioner Rubén Ríos Pagán; Infrastructure Financing Authority Executive Director Grace Santana Balado; Governor García Padilla;  Secretary of Agriculture Myrna Comas Pagán; and Guerrero Pérez. Below, Guerrero Pérez at her swearing-in.

Guerrero-at-swearing-in

The 39-year-old Guerrero Pérez was key in establishing the Sierra Club's newest—and first Spanish-speaking—chapter in 2005, and she has been a leader in the coalition to protect the island's Northeast Ecological Corridor, long the chapter's highest priority.

Below, one of the wild beaches fringing the Corridor, also known as the NEC. These beaches are critical nesting ground for the endangered leatherback sea turtle—the world's largest sea turtle. For the last eight years the Puerto Rico Sierra Club has hosted the Festival del Tinglar (leatherback festival).

NE-Ecological-Corridor
Photo by Luis Villanueva-Cubero

"Carmen and Luis Jorge Rivera, a longtime Sierra Club activist and NEC expert, were the two people who really launched the fight to protect the Corridor," says Puerto Rico Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman.  "Carmen has worked closely with the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust and was a key player in getting the Sierra Club chapter established. I am just so amazingly proud of Carmen."

Carmen-Guerrero-PérezWith her appointment, Guerrero Pérez became just the second woman to head up the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.

"Her appointment has been welcomed by people linked to the defense of the environment and the fight to protect the Northeast Ecological Corridor and stop developments like Costa Serena [a massive residential and tourist development that would threaten leatherback nesting grounds and Puerto Rico's largest mangrove forest]," reports the El Nueva Dia newspaper.

Guerrero Pérez said one of her first orders of business as Secretary will be to to develop a project to educate children and youth about responsible management of natural resources.

Among her stated goals are to integrate more communities into the management of protected areas, promote volunteerism of students and other citizens to work with those areas, strengthen the view that natural resources are one of the country's main attractions, and promote educational initiatives on the economic value of green infrastructure, including water resources. "Our mountain forests and aquifers are our water generation plant," she told El Nueva Dia. Guerrero aims to fully implement Puerto Rico's Water Plan and reforest watersheds to protect the island's water resources.

Below, another view of the Northeast Ecological Corridor.

NE-Ecological-Corridor

"It's been a long road of building demand to protect the Corridor, building grassroots power and securing governmental support, and taking delivery," says Feibelman. "It feels like a mini-miracle. It's a new day in Puerto Rico: a new governor, new legislators in the Corridor district, a new mayor in Luquillo (the "gateway" town to the Corridor), and now Carmen in Natural Resources—all in favor of protecting the Corridor!"

Hon-Carmen-Guerrero-Pérez

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