SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO
A lush region along Puerto Rico’s north coast will be off-limits to developers until a lawsuit filed by conservationists is resolved, an appeals court ruled on Wednesday.
The ruling temporarily bars any Puerto Rican agency from issuing construction permits for the so-called Northeast Ecological Corridor located just north of El Yunque rainforest.
At least five major developments have been proposed for the area, including three resorts and one mall.
In June 2011, a group of conservationists filed a lawsuit to protect the region, which is considered one of the last remaining nesting sites of the U.S. leatherback turtle. Joining the cause were celebrities such as actors Benicio Del Toro and Edward James Olmos and environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
The government earlier had proposed to change the region’s zoning to allow for development in a plan that conservationists say would leave nearly 700 acres (280 hectares) of the roughly 3,200-acre (1,300-hectare) area without protection.
A proposed bill that designates the Northeast Ecological Corridor as a natural reserve is still awaiting debate in the Puerto Rico Senate.