When Columbus arrived, the forests of the island were plush and vibrant. Over the centuries, it is estimated that nearly two-thirds of those original forests have vanished. Illegal forestation, fires, mass farming without forethought as to how to replenish soils after failed crops, and pollution caused an immense amount of destruction. Over time, fertile and pine-covered hillsides increasingly vanished. In the 1970s, environmentalists warned that by 1990, a majority of the native forest would be destroyed, much like what had begun to occur in Haiti. With that, the Dominican government finally stood up and began an active move toward conservation. Today great amounts of land throughout the country are being protected as national parks.
However, there is still quite a lot going on in the environment. A growing tourism industry picks up more momentum with each year, and the mad rush to create more services, resorts, and activities is only now beginning to be monitored. Thankfully, many ecosavvy travelers have become attracted to the Dominican Republic  as a destination. They are not just lying on the beaches anymore. Instead, more visitors are headed inland to raft the rivers and climb the mountains of the central highlands. They are taking boats through mangroves and diving to see the coral beds that fringe the island. While tourism is good for the economy, all of this nature appreciation can take a toll on the environment. An already fragile ecosystem can be crushed under the pressure of so much traffic. Although government programs exist for the protection of these ecosystems, they remain grossly underfunded.