Puerto Rico is an island in peril. Puerto Ricans are faced daily with new construction projects, and unsustainable planning. Unfortunately the places that are most vulnerable to this type of development are the beaches and the costal ecosystems. These systems are vulnerable and somehow resilient to these stressful environments, but what is most interesting is how people in these coastal habitats have learned to be resilient as well, and are facing some of the most brutal development. The process for construction in Puerto Rico is characterized by government corruption and by little to none public consulting processes. Furthermore people and mangroves are connected, people and estuaries are connected, people and leatherback are connected, and there for addressing coastal ecosystem management and conservation has to happen as collaboration between the people who live in these highly populated areas and those ecosystems that are most vulnerable.
To address this problem the Northeastern Ecological Corridor was conceptualized and a Coalition was born. The NEC Coalition developed a program called “community science” that looks to get people out and close to those ecosystems in danger. Develop face-to-face encounters with the ecosystems that represent the Corridor, as a means of connecting people to their environment and therefore connecting them to its protection. Beyond that, the Coalition hosts a diversity of groups that represent the diversity of roles in coastal ecosystem management. Fishermen, farmers, schools, universities, wildlife organizations, community based organizations and others all unite to work for healthier ecosystem management. This has made the development of a multiplicity of projects possible in the region. Connecting ecosystems, but also perspectives of a multiplicity of stakeholders has made it possible for policy changes in the way the area is managed and how people are educated about coastal resources in the island. The NEC Coalition’s work is a model for other coastal communities in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and beyond.