By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: November 1, 2009
SAN JUAN, P.R. (AP) — Puerto Rico’s governor on Friday canceled the designation of part of the island’s northeastern coastline as a nature reserve, opening the door to large-scale development along a white-sand beach where proposals for hotel resorts have sparked bitter protests.
The order signed by the governor, Luis G. Fortuño, directs environmental authorities to evaluate 3,240 acres of public and private land and identify the most ecologically sensitive areas. Those sections would be preserved, while others could be opened to developers.
Currently, only small, eco-friendly projects are allowed in the reserve.
“There should not be any doubt that a nature reserve will be established here,” the planning board president, Hector Morales, said at a news conference.
Conservation groups have fought to keep hotel projects out of the Northeast Ecological Corridor, which includes a beach fringed with tropical forest used by endangered leatherback sea turtles as a nesting area. Proposals for resorts rallied opposition from celebrities including the actor Benicio Del Toro and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer.
Mr. Fortuño’s predecessor, Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, ordered the preservation of the corridor in 2007, and his administration had begun seeking financing to buy private parcels from their owners.
But Mr. Fortuño faced pressure from officials, including the mayor of Luquillo, José González Ortiz, to open the region to development that would create jobs.