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Vieques Wildlife Refuge to become largest in Caribbean

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  • Vieques Wildlife Refuge to become largest in Caribbean

    Vieques Wildlife Refuge to become largest in Caribbean

    Saturday, April 5th, 2003.


    SAN JUAN (AP)
    - Starting May 1, approximately 16,000 acres in the eastern lands of Vieques, previously used as a U.S. Navy firing range, will be added to the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, Interior Secretary Gail Norton said Friday.

    The Navy, which has faced protests over bombing exercises on Vieques, plans to move training to places in Florida and elsewhere on the U.S. mainland.

    The Navy says it will clean up the land and has already demolished barracks and some wooden observation towers.

    The U.S Fish & Wildlife Service of the Interior Department said in a press release that the land transfer will increase the area actually managed as a wildlife refuge in Vieques to 18,659 acres, turning it into the largest Wildlife National Refuge in the Caribbean.

    They emphasized that the area has a variety of ecosystems such as mangrove swamps, lakes, luminescent bays, and beaches used by marine turtles that are in danger of extinction.

    “The service understands the great cultural and historical value that this area has for the Viequenses. The restoration and conservation of one part of Puerto Rico’s natural legacy provides a great benefit for present and future generations,” said Sam D. Hamilton, southeast regional director for U.S Fish & Wildlife Service.

    He added that although they have very serious concerns about the presence of unexploded military munitions and that they have to conduct investigations to determine what refuge areas are safe for people, the opportunity to do great things in favor of Caribbean’s wildlife is enormous.

    Once the Navy hands over the land, the Fish and Wildlife Service plans to evaluate which activities - such as hiking, bicycling, and fishing - should be allowed.
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