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Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico. Photo © Claudio Uribe, Island Conservation. Used with permission: S://EA/Photo Permissions/desecheo-island-conservation.pdf.

Service seeks comments on environmental assessment - restoring wildlife habitat on Desecheo Island

Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comments on the recently completed Environmental Assessment, Rat Eradication to Promote Ecosystem Restoration on Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico. This Environmental Assessment analyzes possible consequences of five alternatives – a no-action alternative and four action alternatives – for restoring the island’s native habitat and species by eradicating non-native, invasive black rats from the Refuge. The proposed action will assist the native subtropical dry forest to recover and will promote the recolonization of the island by nesting seabirds.

The Environmental Assessment can be requested by e-mailing or by calling 787851-7258, ext. 300. Written comments on the Environmental Assessment will be accepted through August 31, 2011, and can be submitted by e-mail or by mail to the Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge - DESECHEO, P.O. Box 510, Boqueron, Puerto Rico 00622.

The Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, is a small, uninhabited island located approximately 13 miles west of Puerto Rico. The refuge was established in 1976 to protect seabird colonies. Historically, Desecheo Island was a major seabird rookery and it may have had the largest brown booby colony in the world, with estimates of up to 15,000 breeding birds in the early 1900s. Surveys in 2009 revealed no breeding seabirds and, in 2010, only a small number birds were recorded nesting on the coastline and offshore islets. The loss of nesting seabirds on the island has been linked to the presence of introduced predators, including invasive black rats.

In addition to seabirds, Desecheo provides habitat for six endemic species (three lizards, three invertebrates) and the federally threatened higo chumbo cactus. The island also supports subtropical dry forest, a habitat type of which only about 11,000 ha is protected in Puerto Rico.

Black rats were first reported and collected from Desecheo in 1912, at which time they were abundant. Black rats are native to the Indian subcontinent, but are now widespread as an invasive species around the world. The removal of introduced species from wildlife refuges is critical to the restoration of wildlife habitat and the protection of threatened species. Island Conservation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing extinctions by removing invasives species, is a partner with the Service in the plan to restore Desecheo Island by removing non-native rats.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Please visit the Service’s websites at


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