Industrial windfarm development in Puerto Rican IBA rejected by government
The Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña, Inc. (SOPI, BirdLife in Puerto Rico) and other organisations have applauded the decision made by the Planning Board of Puerto Rico to reject and suspend the siting permit for an industrial windfarm development in Karso del Sur Important Bird Area (IBA). At the same time, the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed development is being legally disputed.
The windfarm was proposed for construction on forested land that is both ecologically fragile and exceptionally important for biodiversity. This karst limestone area has been designated by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources as a 'High Conservation Priority' and borders the Guánica Biosphere Reserve.
The forests and shrubland in this IBA are home to 19 (of the 23) restricted-range species found on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, including the largest known population (c.20% of the total) of the Critically Endangered Puerto Rican Nightjar Caprimulgus noctitherus. The IBA also supports a regionally significant breeding population of Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii. Small numbers of Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis nest on Don Luis Cay—one of the few nesting locations for the species in Puerto Rico.
"There are alternative and better locations for wind projects in Puerto Rico" —Luis Silvestre, SOPI
"There are alternative and better locations for wind projects in Puerto Rico. However, the proponent refused to negotiate an exchange of development rights to relocate the project to an appropriate place", said SOPI spokesperson, Luis Silvestre.
The location for this particular development was deemed inappropriate. It was expected that construction and operation of the industrial windfarm would have caused significant negative impacts to the area's unique habitat and biodiversity. The area is also home to Puerto Rican Crested Toad Peltophryne lemur and the endemic Blue-tailed Ground Lizard Ameiva wetmorei. The IBA has more than 700 plant species including the Critically Endangered Woodbury's stopper Eugenia woodburyana, Vahl's boxwood Buxus vahlii and Puerto Rico manjack Cordia rupícola, and the Endangered lignumvitae Guaiacum officinale and Stahlia monosperma.
The IBA is also at threat from habitat loss and degradation is occurring as a result of housing and industrial development.
The Puerto Rican Ornithological Society is well placed to collaborate as a resource in developing a responsible multidisciplinary energy plan for the island and reaffirms its support for power generation through renewable energy sources, where land-use is appropriate and does not adversely affect Puerto Rico's valuable natural resources and unique biodiversity.
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