August 4, 2021

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Court orders to paralyze logging in Cerro Gordo

The court ordered the paralysis of tree felling works in the Cerro Gordo resort, in Toa Alta, after holding a judicial hearing regarding the lawsuit filed against the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) and the Sports and Recreation Department (DRD) for what has been described as an “environmental massacre”.

In the Cerro Gordo area, hundreds of trees and palm trees were cut down by a company under contract with the DRNA, claiming that they were diseased trees. However, residents of communities close to the place, as well as people who use the sports and recreational facilities in the area, denounced that it was an indiscriminate logging. Eventually, the municipality of Vega Alta, communities and users of the Cerro Gordo resort filed a lawsuit in the courts to demand the stoppage of work.

The government tried unsuccessfully to have the lawsuit dismissed. And today a first hearing of the case was given, before Judge Sarah Y. Rosado Morales, in which it also transpired that the DRNA did not comply with the delivery to the plaintiffs of documents that it alleges justify the logging, which the court had ordered days back and that he reiterated during the hearing last week to attend his request for dismissal.

Tomorrow, Friday, a face-to-face hearing is scheduled at the Cerro Gordo resort, as part of the judicial process.

Attorney Pedro Ortiz Álvarez, who is handling the case on behalf of the plaintiffs, expressed himself “pleased” with what happened at the hearing, “within the unfortunate circumstances surrounding this case.”

“In the first place, all the efforts have been paralyzed, all the terrible things that were happening in Cerro Gordo. And nothing is going to happen there until either an agreement is reached with the municipality regarding a situation that requires urgent attention, or with the intervention of the court. But the unscrupulous destruction of trees that was happening there, well, it stopped, “said Ortiz.

The lawyer added that they will continue to fight so that “a situation like that does not continue to affect the residents of Vega Alta and the users of those areas, who are from all over Puerto Rico.”

Ortiz said that tomorrow (Friday) there would be “a meeting in the area, with the purpose of raising the barriers” so that the public can have access to the area. He added that “the state has a final order, that they have to submit all the documents that, supposedly, justify the state’s interventions.”

“Because of what happened in the hearing before the House of Representatives, we are fully convinced that there the Department (of Natural and Environmental Resources) exceeded what it could do. In the same way that we have no doubt that the procedure followed was illegal, because it included the elimination of the intervention of the Department of Natural (and Environmental) Resources as a regulatory entity and as an agency with the function of protecting natural resources in Puerto Rico, ”Ortiz said.

He argued that the DNER “what it did was, simply, excuse compliance with the regulations and replace it with a somewhat surreptitious, anonymous inquiry, which was conducted by people, without the participation of the municipality, the community and the people in general. , which is what should happen in situations like this ”.

Linda Marrero, who described herself as a “user of the Cerro Gordo recreational area,” celebrated the stoppage of logging ordered by the court.

“We have managed to stop them from damaging our park. And we are happy, because finally there is a community that cares, and finally we have a mayor who fights for its natural resources, ”said Marrero.

Mike Arroyo, a neighbor and pastor of the community of Breñas, near Cerro Gordo, also expressed himself “pleased with what is happening.”

He praised the holding of the face-to-face hearing tomorrow, Friday, and anticipated that with it they could “remove that sign that is prohibiting access to the park right now, and also reach a conclusion that the fact that they continue to fell trees should cease and desist in the Cerro Gordo area. So we hope to God that this ends and that we are all pleased. “

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