Protected Areas Conservation Action Team (PA-CAT)
Last update: 17 January 2017
To provide information and guidance in support of the establishment and management of comprehensive protected areas systems in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Human activities continue to fragment and degrade the ecological systems that function as habitats for important flora and fauna, and that provide a range of goods and services that support economic and social development. At the local level, there are clear signs of how such ecosystem degradation adversely affects availability of natural resources and reduces the options for supporting community livelihood. At the regional and global levels of the conservation community, there is growing awareness of the role of ecosystems in maintaining life-support systems.
Protected areas development is the primary mechanism used to protect the most fragile and important ecosystems and other natural and cultural heritage resources. Additionally, management of protected areas must increasingly address multiple objectives associated with social, environmental, and economic development. Meeting multiple sustainable development objectives necessitate a systems approach to protected areas development.
At the global and regional levels, the Government of the United States of America is a party to several multi-lateral environmental agreements that deal specifically with protected areas. Those international obligations are strengthened by national conservation and protected areas programs.
Short-term Roles and Tasks
- Build and maintain an open-access protected areas database for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands that is consistent with the IUCN and PAD-US classification system and determine what lands and marine extents are currently under protection and by what mechanisms.
- Develop a conservation strategy that standardizes the language used for discussing protected areas in the two jurisdictions, details the existing and potential mechanisms and tactics for protection (i.e., acquisition, easements, land use, donation) based on the database and research, and assigns PA-CAT members tasks for working towards the goal of increasing the amount of protected areas or enhancing the current management of areas actively managed in PR and USVI.
Long-term Roles and Tasks
- Work with existing groups to provide information and guidance to support the process of considering institutional framework options for the establishment of a protected area system in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
- Develop standardized methodology and conduct a review of co-management initiatives in the Caribbean, in order to identify best practices that could be applied in PR and USVI by governmental and nongovernmental entities.
- Facilitate a cohesive and ongoing dialogue regarding protected areas development in the two jurisdictions, as well as cooperation between the two territories.
- Assist in the identification of marine protected areas (MPAs) that could serve to improve reef resilience and other critical ecosystem functions.
- Assist in the identification of sites to be listed under regional and international multi-lateral environmental agreements.
- Collaborate with Caribbean protected areas institutions and networks in the development of a comprehensive database of terrestrial and marine protected areas in the Wider Caribbean Region.
Timeline: Beginnings of the PA-CAT
Publications & Links
29 December 2016—The December 2016 update of Puerto Rico’s protected areas data is available to view and download in our interactive map. This last update incorporates the latest acquisitions from the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and Para la Naturaleza. In 2016, 1,076 hectares (2,659 acres) were added to the protected land inventory while a new marine extent added 6,490 hectares (16,036 acres) to the protected ocean of Puerto Rico. These additions bring the amount of terrestrial protected areas to 16.1% and 26.7% for marine protected areas. Additionally, six area boundaries and changes in the attribute table for eight areas are included in this update. After the team updated the inventory, the Government of Puerto Rico declared the zone of Mar Chiquita in the municipality of Manatí a nature reserve; this new reserve will be included in the December 2017 update next year. Read the full blog article in English or in Spanish.
25 April 2016—Protected Areas Conservation Team (PA-CAT) celebrates Puerto Rico meeting its target to protect 16% of its lands. Read story.
In the News
Ya está protegido el 16.1% de los terrenos en la Isla – El Nuevo Dia (8 enero 2017)
Press Clippings April 2016 – multiple (20 April 2016 – 25 April 2016)
Current Team Organizations
Current Team Members
Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources
Carlos Juan Cruz
Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources
U.S. Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Puerto Rico Planning Board
Luis García Pelatti
Rebecca De La Cruz Pérez
Rafael Marrero Arce
Daniel Díaz Torres
Para La Naturaleza (a unit of the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust)
The Nature Conservancy
New representative pending TNC structural changes in U.S. Caribbean
University of Puerto Rico
Jessica Castro Prieto
Foundation for Development Planning, Inc.
Bahia Beach Restort and Golf Club/Fundación Alma de Bahía
St. Croix Environmental Association
New representative pending per Carol Cramer-Burke retirement
University of the Virgin Islands
Independent Conservation Specialist
Aaron Hutchins, formerly participated through The Nature Conservancy, now participating independently.
Center for Landscape Conservation
Sierra Club Puerto Rico