Puerto Rican Ornithological Society, Virgin Islands Conservation Society, National Wildlife Federation Mark Anniversary of Hurricanes Maria, Irma

Anniversary Underscores Importance of Wildlife Habitat, Natural Infrastructure to Resiliency

WASHINGTON, DC — On the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria making landfall on Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society (SOPI, from its name in Spanish, Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña, Inc.), the Virgin Islands Conservation Society (VICS) and the National Wildlife Federation commemorated the lives lost during the devastating 2017 hurricane season. The National Wildlife Federation and its affiliate partners also urged policymakers to continue to support resiliency in coastal communities and invest in natural infrastructure — for wildlife and human safety.

“We’ve made important progress recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria over the past year, but we still have work to do,” said Nathaniel González from the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society. “Now more than ever, we need to invest in natural infrastructure — like Puerto Rico’s coastal wetlands and mangroves — to ensure communities dealing with the threat of climate change and hurricanes are resilient. Wildlife habitat is important not only for wildlife, but also for how it supports and protects human communities.”

“The U.S. Virgin Islands continues to move forward after experiencing two back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes, Irma on September 6 and Maria on September 19 — which also deeply affected our affiliate partners the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society,” said Jason Budsan, president of the Virgin Islands Conservation Society’s board of directors. “The Virgin Islands Conservation Society is on a path to recovery on the anniversary of these hurricanes. We have been focusing our efforts on using our much appreciated hurricane recovery funding on projects that will have an effect on our environment, strengthening our resiliency for future disasters and increasing our capacity as an organization. As this active hurricane season continues, our thoughts and prayers go out to the other affiliates in the path of these destructive hurricanes and tropical storm systems.”

“Restoring and enhancing our natural resources are essential to preventing the level of devastation experienced by our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For the past year, our affiliate partners in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have worked tirelessly to help restore wildlife habitat in the wake of Hurricanes Maria and Irma,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “When we support wildlife and restore natural defenses, we promote resiliency to extreme storms and improve community health. Congress and the administration should listen to these on-the-ground voices and prioritize restoring wildlife habitat, coastal wetlands and natural defenses in future infrastructure packages.”

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