Together in the initiative to plant 25,000 trees in three years

Twenty-five volunteers joined the efforts to plant a thousand native trees in the lands surrounding the mouth of the Guajataca River, in Quebradillas, as part of the Coastal Rescue program, a FirstBank initiative that started eight months ago with the expectation of planting 25,000 species, mainly, in the municipalities affected by erosion on the island.

With the advice of ecologist, Alexis Molinares, and in alliance with Vida Marina, an environmental organization that operates under the umbrella of the Aguadilla campus of the University of Puerto Rico, the group planted trees and plants “that are typical of coastal swamps in Puerto Rich,” said the expert. Among these: cayur, button mangrove and pterocarpus, which were planted in the mangrove area. Meanwhile, in the beach area the species chosen were the beach grape and the icaco.

“They are all coastal vegetation that tolerates strong winds, the abrasive effect of sand, and salinity. We try to replicate what natural communities are like; we don’t bring exotic vegetation,” said Molinares.

Cayur, button mangrove and pterocarpus species were planted in the mangrove area. (Supplied)

Although he acknowledged that they cannot avoid the natural mortality of the planted species, the scientist pointed out the maintenance contemplated as part of the project, which includes monitoring and irrigation in alliance with 22 non-profit organizationssuch as Girls Scout of Caribe, Boys Scout of America and EcoExploratorio, which are responsible for volunteer work.

FirstBank has also entered into collaboration agreements with the Department of Education and the affected municipalities.

“The entire planting design is based on trying to minimize natural mortality. There is always natural mortality. We plant 100 plants and, of those, we hope that 90 survive. For that, they are plants specialized to the site, number one; and number two, we are planting in the season when the rain begins; this year we have been very lucky in that sense,” he stressed.

Commitment to the environment

In less than a year, Coastal Rescue, created in commemoration of FirstBank’s 75th anniversary in 2023, has impacted the municipalities of Isabela, Luquillo, Loíza, Camuy, Quebradillas and Manatí, with a total planting, so far, of 7,460 species, and the integration of about 500 volunteers. The expectation is to reach 25,000 trees in a period of three years.

“Dr. Robert Mayer, from Vida Marina, has a spectacular project dedicated to creating dunes and bridges that prevent people from walking on the sand; what we did was unite our project. They create the dunes and we provide the vegetative material component,” explained Jessica Cruz, vice president of corporate communications at FirstBank.

The group was advised by ecologist Alexis Molinares.
The group was advised by ecologist Alexis Molinares. (Supplied)

The institution calls for two sowings monthly.

“Our commitment to embrace the environmental cause does not just begin on our 75th anniversary, but rather has been consolidated over the years through significant investments in reforestation, home gardens, recycling programs and supporting entities focused on the environment,” said Ginoris López-Lay, Executive Vice President and Director of Strategic Management at FirstBank.

“As we celebrate our 75th anniversary, we wanted to leave a legacy in our country, and it was a very natural thing to address the various environmental problems, and that is where the coastal erosion mitigation program, Coastal Rescue, was born. Its goal is to plant 25,000 native trees on our coasts over a three-year period. Coastal erosion affects 60 miles of our coast, and the causes are both natural and human. It was necessary to carry out a multi-sector project to address a national problem,” said the executive.

Other FirstBank initiatives in favor of the environment are the collection of unused cell phones through ballot boxes installed in different branches. In previous years, they have also promoted programs such as Crece Verde, through which thousands of species of trees, including fruit trees, were distributed to promote food security.