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Secretary Jewell Makes Her First Official Visit To The Territory For Transfer Day


U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will make her first official visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands on March 30-31.

Joined by Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina, Secretary Jewell will meet with Gov. Kenneth Mapp, deliver keynote remarks at the 99th Transfer Day Ceremony and join the Executive Committee of the USVI Climate Change Council to discuss how the administration is working with island communities to prepare and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Jewell will also visit the Virgin Islands National Park in St. John to make an announcement about the president’s Every Kid in a Park initiative with local fourth graders from the Julius E. Sprauve School.

The initiative is part of an overall strategy to connect young people to the outdoors, allowing fourth graders to go to to obtain a pass for free entry for them and their families to at least 2,000 federally managed lands and waters nationwide for an entire year, including all federally managed parks in the territory.

Getting our children to better appreciate the outdoors and our status as an American territory, were among the many topics covered when Mapp met with Jewell on Wednesday morning, according to Government House.

Mapp  said that he was most pleased to welcome Secretary Jewell to the Virgin Islands, especially as we prepare to commemorate our 99th year as an American Territory on March 31.

The Governor and Ms. Jewell are both scheduled to speak at today’s Transfer Day program on St. Croix, where Secretary Jewell will deliver the keynote address.

Climate change is one of the many issues the Interior Department is in the territory to discuss and Secretary Jewell had high praise for the Mapp-Potter Administration’s efforts, particularly the Executive Order on Climate Change signed by the Governor last October.

“Thank you for your leadership,” Secretary Jewell said. “You are setting an example for other island nations.”

The Secretary, who was accompanied by the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas, Esther Kia’aina, reiterated the importance of smaller islands playing a role in combating the negative impacts of climate change given that they will be most dramatically impacted by rising sea levels.

The Governor also pledged his support for the Interior Department’s Every Kid in a Park initiative, which gives a free one year pass to all 2,000 federally managed lands and waters for fourth grade students and their families in order to encourage young people to disconnect from electronics and reconnect with nature.

Secretary Jewell said the pass has an $80 value. Other issues addressed during the Governor’s meeting with the Interior Secretary included recent efforts to expose and address U.S. Customs’ failure to protect our duty free status, Salt River, rum subsidies and the future of the Virgin Islands as an American territory.

The Governor and Secretary agreed that the approach of our 100 year anniversary under the U.S. flag represented an ideal time to look forward. The Governor told the Interior Secretary that Virgin Islanders were proudly American and sought access to the same rights and benefits as their mainland counterparts. They are expected to continue discussions tomorrow.

Today Jewell joined other island leaders and community members in St. Croix to deliver keynote remarks at the 99th Anniversary of Transfer Day — when the United States purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark — and participate in a naturalization ceremony to welcome 50 new American citizens.

The Department of the Interior, through the Office of Insular Areas, is responsible for coordinating federal policy with the U.S. Virgin Islands, the territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The Office of Insular Affairs’ mission is to foster economic opportunities, promote government efficiency, and improve the quality of life for the people of the insular areas.


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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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