When Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba, more than 90 percent of the island was covered in forest. On the eve of the Revolution, only 14 percent of the land was forested.
The revolutionary government undertook a reforestation program in the mid-1960s. Following the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the government announced a second reforestation plan; it claims to have planted 137 million saplings in 2007 alone! Virtually the entire reforestation program, however, is in firs, not diverse species. There is little effort to regenerate primary forest.
Recent engineering projects to promote tourism in the northern cays have been ecological disasters. Construction of the pedraplén linking Cayo Coco to mainland Ciego de Ávila Province cut off the flow of tidal waters, to the severe detriment of local ecology. Dynamiting for hotel construction has scared away flocks of flamingos, while previously protected areas are gerrymandered to make way for massive new all-inclusive hotels. Meanwhile, coral reefs have suffered from turbidity from land-generated sediments and by agricultural runoff of poisonous pesticides used in the sugarcane fields.
Although Cuba has had notable success in bringing the Cuban crocodile back from the dead, the Cuban government has shown little concern for international conservation laws. Cuba campaigns to get sales of hawksbills legalized again internationally. Endangered black coral is the staple of Cuba’s jewel industry. And lobsters, conch, and shrimp are becoming endangered in Cuban waters to cater to the tourist market and for export.