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Nearly $1.7 million assigned for access to STEM education, fostering agriculture and natural resource protection

By on June 13, 2018

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Congress, Jennifer González, announced new allocations of federal funds totaling close to $1.7 million to help science be more accessible at the university level, promote agriculture as an economic alternative for individuals and better access to natural resources.

The National Science Foundation allocated nearly $1.1 million to the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) under an initiative for institutions that promote education of “minority” groups in the sciences.

The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation is a partnership-based program with higher education institutions that encourages more minority students to be trained in different areas of science to promote diversity in subjects such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM.

Puerto Rico resident commissioner expects more federal funds for island

Thanks to these funds, 12 students will be recruited for STEM postgraduate studies at the UPR’s Río Piedras campus, the study expenses will be covered for two years, the duration of the program.

For its part, the National and Community Service Corp. (CNCS) allocated $83,724 for the Plenitud Iniciativas Ecoducativas nonprofit in Las Marías under the AmeriCorps Vista program to fight poverty.

Plenitud Iniciativas Ecoducativas is an educational and agricultural learning center focused on research and sustainable practices that offers training for beginner farmers, urban food production, processing, food storage and animal husbandry, among other subjects.

IN the resident commissioner’ announcing release, AmeriCorps Vista adds that after Hurricane María’s impact, “a decentralized system of agriculture would help people with limited economic resources to recover and prosper.” The federal program seeks to help Plenitud Iniciativas Ecoducativas to “recruit volunteers, raise funds, improve their work tools, expand their programs, help develop gardening programs in schools, among others.”

Puerto Rico will also receive $550,000 from the U.S. Department of the Interior for reconstruction work on public access to the Northeast Channel of the Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge in Lajas.

The Department of the Interior announced the funds approved for the 2018 fiscal year of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service amounting to $50 million to be distributed among all the components assigned to the department in the states and territories. This year, the department focused its budget on infrastructure reconstruction projects.

Cartagena Lagoon is a remnant of what was once a large body of open water and one of the most important freshwater habitats of Puerto Rico for native and migratory waterbirds. Due to agricultural practices, 90 percent of the lagoon is full of vegetation.

The area also consists of pastures, abandoned cane fields and 275 acres of Sierra Bermeja, considered the oldest geological formation in the Caribbean, which protects native forests with many endangered and endemic plant species. Nearly half of the birds in Puerto Rico have been observed in the area, the release adds.

In 1989, the Fish and Wildlife Service acquired 788 acres from the wetland and surrounding lands of the Puerto Rico Land Authority. Some 275 additional acres of land in Sierra Bermeja were added in 1996. El Refugio is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System of the Caribbean Islands.

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