1 | El Yunque Stewardship Fund

El Yunque Stewardship Fund

America’s Tropical National Rainforest

Located on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, the El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rain forest in the National Forest system. At 28, 000 acres El Yunque belies its importance as one of the most biologically diverse of the National Forests. Home to a dazzling diversity of flora, fauna and ecosystems, El Yunque has sweltering lowland rainforests that hum with chirps of Coqui frogs, to chilly, cloud-covered dwarf forests – all providing habitat for hundreds of animal and plant species, some of which are found only here.

Photo by Marie Stone

The steep slopes of the rugged Luquillo Mountains rise to 3,533 ft. and can receive rainfall of over 200 inches per year at higher elevations – providing water to Puerto Ricans living downstream throughout the island.

Each year, the El Yunque welcomes about 600,000 visitors from all over the world who come to experience the rainforest’s sights and sounds while developing a greater understanding of its ecological importance by walking the many beautiful trails.

A Highly Valued Forest Under Duress

The landscape of El Yunque National Forest has long been valued for the role it serves as island protector and for its importance to the health and quality of life for Puerto Rico’s citizens.

  • Strong community connection to the Forest / Precious natural resource
  • Tourism - most visited attraction on the island.
  • 20% of the islands fresh water comes from the Luquillo Mountains.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria passed over Puerto Rico in September 2017 and left a swath of destruction across the Forest. From the massive number of downed trees to crippled facilities and severely impacted infrastructure, Forest recovery operations will require an increased dedication and a long term collective community effort.

Initial assessments and clean up efforts to El Yunque National Forest ecological resources and facilities are underway and the planning for recovery activities/projects has begun following the impacts of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

A Collective Restoration Effort

Maria made landfall as a powerful Category 4 storm on September 20th. Winds in excess of 140 mph thrashed the trees, causing canopies to lose all of their leaves. Heavy rainfall both during and after Maria triggered a spate of landslides, rendering many roads impassable. The photos that emerged after the storm, of downed trees, defoliated canopies, and battered infrastructure, painted a bleak, almost apocalyptic picture. Scientists expect a bounce back and the Forest is starting to show some signs of recovery.

Through the El Yunque Stewardship Fund, the National Forest Foundation (NFF), the U.S. Forest Service and community partners are working together to expand restoration efforts while increasing the collective capacity of local groups to engage in hands-on stewardship and recreational infrastructure improvements.

The El Yunque is a very unique, regionally renowned site which maintains strong connections to Puerto Ricans (and to visitors) – providing clean water, unique plant and animals, and recreation and adventure.

This National Forest Foundation effort will help to support stewardship activities to restore important sites on the Forest, repair damaged trails, impaired watersheds and habitat, while connecting citizens and communities to the land through collaboration, volunteering and learning opportunities.

Together, we can ensure that the El Yunque National Forests is sustainably restored.

The primary objectives for effort are to:

  • Develop partnerships - increasing the amount of funding from businesses and other state and private sources
  • Build stewardship capacity - creating programs that increase the number of organizations and individuals working and volunteering
  • Increase the number of recreation/trail improvement and forest health projects