Washington, DC – After a drawn-out debate in Congress, a provision that would have enabled Puerto Rico to sell off the Vieques Wildlife Refuge to pay down their debts was removed from H.R. 4900, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), thanks to a concerted effort by organizations and individuals across the nation, and both Republican and Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives, including Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Paul Ryan (R-WI).
Yesterday, Collin O’Mara, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Wildlife Federation, said:
“We are grateful to the Members of Congress and members of the Administration who successfully prevented a proposal to sell the Vieques Wildlife Refuge from being any part of the Puerto Rico debt agreement. America’s public lands provide tremendous economic benefits and selling them off is a short-sighted and counterproductive way to attempt to reduce debt. Vieques National Wildlife refuge is a treasure for both Puerto Rico and the nation—voted in 2015 as the fourth best refuge in the entire National Wildlife Refuge System.
We were proud to partner with our Puerto Rico affiliate, Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña, Inc. (SOPI), as well as League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Hispanics Enjoying Camping and Hunting in the Outdoors (HECHO), and other partners to fight this misguided attempt to take advantage of an economic crisis to advance an anti-public lands agenda, and protect this national treasure.”
Vieques provides wildlife in Puerto Rico with irreplaceable core habitat and is helping restore the populations of fourteen threatened and endangered species such as the green sea turtle. The loss of Vieques would have been an irreplaceable loss of an economic engine for the island as the refuge attracts more than a quarter million visitors each year. The National Wildlife Federation and its network of affiliates will continue to protect public lands like Vieques and fight to keep them accessible to everyone.
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