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What is the future of El Yunque?

El futuro de El Yunque en el conexto de un nuevo modelo de planificacion A position paper from USDA Forest Service, El Yunque National Forest, PO Box 13490, Rio Grande, PR 00745. Prepared by Pedro Rios, Luis A. Rivera, and Felipe Cano The US Forest Service is implementing a new planning model for conservation, restoration and use of its resources. A new planning rule was adopted in 2012. The model uses unit level and broad landscape planning design concepts. The model considers fourteen planning level topics to structure a plan based on economic, social and ecological sustainability.. The new planning model will be tested for three years. The presentation reviews new methodology, concepts and policies. The new plan for El Yunque will be completed in 2015. Background The (El Yunque) National Forest / Luquillo Experimental Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (1997) allows for management of El Yunque s natural resources. The protected area is managed for sustainment of its renewable resources in perpetuity while maintaining the longterm health and productivity of the land (MUSYA, 1960). The 1997 plan analyzes the current and future resource conditions, and determines the goals, objectives, and desired future conditions of the forests land, wilderness, and rivers. The management plan also allocates the Forest into a Management Areas and develops specific standards and guidelines for those areas. The U.S. Forest Service approved a new Forest Planning regulation (36 CFR Part 219). The purpose of the regulation is to guide the new collaborative and science-based process of land management planning. El Yunque National Forest was selected by the Agency to be one of the 8 early adopters of the new Planning rule. Back in 1997 several issues were identified. These include the demonstration of sustainable timber production while assuring a diversity of other Forest values; recommendations for designated wilderness areas and river segments designated as wild, scenic, or recreation; protection of the primary forests; providing recreation opportunities, Forest management activities, water supply while protecting the ecological values of the Forest, and wildlife; providing and managing appropriate Forest access; and meeting the needs of tropical forestry research while protecting the Forests environmental values. In 2006, the Forest Service identified 4 major threats, 3 of which are relevant to El Yunque. These include unmanaged recreation, when the number of visitors and areas they visit are not controlled; invasive species, which are not native to Puerto Rico and are a threat to indigenous

species; and loss of open space to urbanization. El Yunque has been and continues to be affected by these threats. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled a new policy calling for an All Lands Approach. The policy states that forestlands, both public and private, are environmental and economic assets that are in critical need of restoration and conservation. The policy consists of using a collaborative management approach deeply focused on re-establishing these natural resources to make our forests more resilient to climate change protect water resources and improve forest health, while also creating employment opportunities (USDA, 2009). The US Forest Service in Puerto Rico selected the islands Northeast Region as its focus area. This region comprises a matrix of open space, protected lands, developed lands, and agriculture in close proximity to the Luquillo Mountain Range and El Yunque National Forest. The planning of El Yunque requires compatible design strategies among the different sectors engaged in land management activities. Joint planing concepts are identified. These efforts help define the future of El Yunque.