Vieques NWR was created to maintain and preserve dry forest habitat and wetlands ecosystem for resident and migratory birds and threatened and endangered species; to protect historical and archeological resource sites; and to provide a safe environment for people to enjoy wildlife oriented public use. It is the only wildlife refuge in the system with a subtropical moist forest located in the Neotropical life zone.
In addition to its ecological value, the Wildlife Refuge contains important archeological and historic resources, including artifacts of the aboriginal Taino culture and the island’s sugar cane plantation era.
Over sixty years, the Navy used the Vieques NWR for military practices. Large tracts of the Vieques NWR and its surrounding waters were designated as a superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge will active manage and protect the wildlife resources and habitats, with special emphasis on endangered species, wetlands and forest communities; ensure that lands are clean, healthy, and safe for the wildlife, residents and visitors; and provide opportunities for compatible wildlife-dependent and recreational uses.
The Service works in partnership with municipal, commonwealth, and federal agencies, the local community, educational institutions, and interest groups to provide a unique refuge environment for the enjoyment of the rich and diverse natural and cultural resources, educational and interpretive programs, scientific research, and to safeguard this heritage for future generations.”
Purpose of the Wildlife Refuge
Section 1508 (d) of Public Law 106-398 dated October 30, 2000, established that the lands transferred to the Department of the Interior "shall be managed to protect and preserve the natural resources of the lands in perpetuity."
The legislation established both the eastern (Public Law 107-107) and western (Public Law 106- 398) portions of the refuge stated that the Secretary of the Interior shall administer the lands as wildlife refuges under the National Wildlife Refuge Administration Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 668dd et seq.). With respect to the “live impact area” on eastern Vieques, Public Law 107-107 further stated that the Secretary of the Interior shall administer that area as a under the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.), and deny public access to the area.
The final legislation directed the Navy to undertake activities needed to identify and clean-up contaminated areas as required by CERCLA to facilitate utilization of the property for the benefit of the municipality of Vieques. It also directed the Department of the Interior to
administer the Conservation Zones transferred to it as a wildlife refuge under the National
Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 United States Code [USC] 688 dd). As mandated by Public Law 106-398 (Appendix III).
- 1816 - Simon Bolívar, The Liberator of a large part of South America, landed in Vieques.
- 1843 - The Spanish Empire founded the Vieques Municipality and Isabel II as the Capital.
- 1940 - The Sugar Cane era collapsed and the landowners sell their lands to the US Navy.
- 1943 - The Navy purchased three quarters of Vieques Island for military training.
- 1999 - David Sanes died from an accidental bomb blast at OP-1, located on the east of Vieques. Several sectors of PR demanded the departure of the Navy from Vieques.
- 2001 - Approximately 3,100 acres comprising the Conservation Zones (MOU 1983 MOU) were transferred to DOI. 800 acres were transferred to the PR Conservation Trust and the remaining 4,200 acres to the Municipality of Vieques.
- 2003 - The Navy finished their military practices in Vieques. Approximately 14,669 acres from the Eastern area of Vieques were transferred to the DOI. This is approximately half of the island.
- Present: The US Navy is the Principal Responsible Party (PRP) for the cleanup on Vieques. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, as the land managers, will continue to work closely with the Navy, the EPA, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Municipality of Vieques and the community to expedite and ensure the appropriate cleanup of the NWR lands within the site.
While the CERCLA process proceeds in the restricted areas, we allow full access to visitors and the community to the publics areas. We work closely with our partners and stakeholders to conserve natural resources and develop compatible wildlife dependent activities. Through nature based tourism, the Vieques NWR and the Puerto Rico DNER Nature Reserve are the economic engines of this island.
Other Facilities in this Complex
Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is one of many refuges that make up the Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Each refuge in the complex plays vital role to conserving our unique, endemic species and resources in the Caribbean.