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U.S. Acting Assistant Interior Secretary Gives $103,000 To DPNR For Coral Reef Ecosystems

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Acting Interior assistant secretary for Insular Areas Nikolao Pula has made available more than $1 million for natural and cultural resource protection in the U.S. Insular Areas, including the territory.

The funds will support a wide variety of initiatives that include watershed management, GIS skills development, radar monitoring and marine protected areas surveillance, youth education in conservation management, and environmental law-enforcement training.

These projects support sustainable use of natural and cultural resources in the U.S. territories and freely associated states.

“People [on] the islands depend on the strength and viability of their natural resources for sustenance, and physical and socio-economic wellbeing,” said Pula. “Even small amounts of funding can yield great impacts, and this year’s recipients successfully demonstrate the wide range of areas where assistance is needed.”

The CNMI Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality Division of Coastal Resources Management will use $95,000 to:

1. Train staff in marine and island ecosystems management;

2. Conduct “Ridge to Reef” educational program for youth to make connections between land-based sources of pollution and coastal health;

3. Provide surveillance, monitoring, and outreach to reduce littering, violations, and illegal dumping in Garapan, the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI);

4. Update the CNMI Coral Reef Management Priorities Setting Document;

5. Study Saipan lagoon seagrass to establish benefits these habitats provide to near-shore coastal environment; and

6. Update Conservation Action Plan for Garapan, the most densely populated watershed in the CNMI, and to help prioritize the most imminent threats such as polluted storm water runoff, nutrient pollution, or algal growth.

A non-profit organization in the CNMI, Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance, will use $94,881 to educate and train students in community conservation and stewardship programs to protect Saipan’s natural resources and the environment. This year the students will develop a school conservation action plan. They will also carry out reforestation projects at several public parks, particularly in coastal areas impacted by Typhoon Soudelor in 2015.

In Guam, the Bureau of Statistics and Plans will receive $95,000 for a variety of projects, including:

1. Providing coral reef management support through participation in local and regional meetings to address and promote sound management of coral reef conservation efforts on Guam. These efforts promote sustainability of Guam’s tourism industry and responsible development along Guam’s shorelines.

2. Support the Guam Nature Alliance, the University of Guam’s Island Sustainability Conference and other efforts to engage communities in the management of Guam’s land, water and ocean resources.

3. TASI Watch beach guides will be hired and trained to monitor trends in recreational use and conduct educational outreach at Piti’s Tepungan Bay, one of five marine preserves in Guam and also one of the most heavily used for introductory dives. The Guam Visitor’s Bureau documented more than 125,000 dive visitors in 2015, with no details on how many may have used the Piti site. Understanding those numbers will help guide strategies to reduce recreational impacts on one of Guam’s most important local reefs. Tasi means sea in Chamorro.

The National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program was granted $200,000 for 2017-2018 to help place a Coral Fellow each in American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the CNMI.

This program was identified by the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force members (which include the governors of these U.S. territories) as one of its highest priorities for funding.

The collaborative fellowship program, which is administered by the National Coral Reef Institute of Nova Southeastern University in Florida seeks to build next generation leaders and capacity for effective local coral reef ecosystem management. NOAA will provide an additional $400,000 for travel, training, and development of the fellows and provide for additional fellows to be placed in Hawaii, Florida and Puerto Rico.

The American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources will get $94,906, while the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources is granted $103,000.

In Palau, the Ridge to Reefs, a non-profit organization, is granted $100,000 to work with the Belau Watershed Alliance, the Palau Conservation Society, and other local and community partners on Palau to address increases in growth and development around the main island of Babeldaob since completion of the circumferential Compact Road.

The Nature Conservancy Micronesia will receive $93,600 to pilot a community-based fisheries management program on Oneisomw in the Chuuk Lagoon and address a decline in fisheries due to overfishing and damage of coral reef habitats. Chuuk has only 2 percent of its marine resources designated as no-take areas, the lowest among the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia. Chuuk has suffered from challenges such as overfishing, land-based pollution, the lack of a statewide approach to management, and a lack of capacity for resource planning. This project is in line with the Micronesia Challenge, a shared commitment by the chief executives of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau to effectively conserve at least 30% of near-shore marine and 20% of terrestrial resources across the Micronesia region by 2020, and shared recognition that the future of the islands depends on the viability of their marine and terrestrial environments.

The Micronesia Conservation Trust will receive $127,400 to fund the participation of one conservation officer from each of the Micronesian island jurisdictions in the Micronesia Challenge to participate in the first course scheduled for 2017 at the Marine-Terrestrial Conservation Enforcement Academy at the Guam Community College.

Through this MCT-GCC collaboration, conservation officers across the region will be trained in safety procedures and how to approach and apprehend alleged violators as well as prepare reports that can stand up in court.

The Micronesia Conservation Trust, a financial mechanism of the Micronesia Challenge, is a regional organization supporting biodiversity conservation and related sustainable development for the people of Micronesia in the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Guam, and the CNMI.

All funding was provided under what was formerly called the Coral Reef Initiative and is available under CFDA 15.875 at https://www.grants.gov/.

All four islands of the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the CNMI, as well as the three freely associated states of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau are eligible to apply.

Discretionary funding provided by the Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior is appropriated annually by Congress. (PR)

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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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