Assistant Secretary Estenoz Highlights Investing in America Investments for Climate Resilience in Puerto Rico

$5 million grant will help restore coastal habitat and tackle the threat of rising sea levels 

Last edited 03/15/2024

Date: Friday, March 15, 2024

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz visited Puerto Rico this week to highlight how the Department of the Interior is supporting locally led, landscape-scale conservation projects on the island with investments from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. 

Assistant Secretary Estenoz traveled to Cabo Rojo, where she joined Governor Pedro Pierluisi and local leaders to celebrate a $5 million grant from the America the Beautiful Challenge to restore coastal habitats and resilience of the Salt Flats at the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge. With funding from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources is joining with Protectores de Cuenca, a local nonprofit, to restore coastal habitat and hydrological connectivity. These efforts will help address the threat of rising sea levels that are causing coastal erosion and flooding while protecting a cultural landmark, conserving habitat for migratory birds and supporting one of the oldest economic industries in Puerto Rico. 

The Department recently announced the release of the 2024 Request for Proposals for the America the Beautiful Challenge. The program, which was launched in 2022 with support from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is dedicated to funding landscape-scale conservation and restoration projects that implement existing conservation plans across the nation. In 2024, the program expects to award up to $119 million in grants to communities nationwide. 

The America the Beautiful Challenge advances President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative, which set the nation’s first-ever goal to conserve and restore 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The 10-year, locally led and nationally scaled initiative lifts up efforts to protect, conserve, connect and restore the lands, waters and wildlife upon which we all depend. In his first two years in office, President Biden invested more dollars in conservation than any other President in a two-year period, and he is on track to conserve more lands and waters than any President in history.   

During her visit, Assistant Secretary Estenoz also joined leaders from The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization established in 1968 between the Interior Department and the Government of Puerto Rico, to tour various sites in southwest Puerto Rico being protected and preserved for their ecological or historical significance. Assistant Secretary Estenoz serves as the Department’s Liaison to the Trust’s Advisory Council. The tour included a visit to the Hacienda Buena Vista Natural Protected Area in the mountains of Ponce where The Trust protects invaluable ecological, historical and cultural assets. The site contains structures that are over a century old and help tell the history of Puerto Rico in the 19th century. 


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