Monday, July 31, 2006

Mapping the Reveg Sites

This afternoon Coastal Resource Management GIS specialist Deirdre McClarin, who is funded through NOAA, helped us map out our plantings at the Lao Lao revegetation site. We created a boundary for the planting that we did two weeks ago and a boundary combining the two plantings we did this past week (they had some overlap and were only separated by 3 days, so it made sense to combine them).

She had help from two interns, Eleno Valdez and Ray Camacho. To map out the area they used a Trimple GPS unit, which is a backpack with batteries and an antenna (for increased accuracy), and has the GPS 'computer' connected to it. The interns carried the GPS around the edge of both revegetation plots and logged position readings every five seconds.

Deirdre will plug that data into existing GIS data and will print us out a digital map of both planting areas. This data will be made available to the general public.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Even more trees in the ground!

Super volunteers Kyle Kaipat, Josiah Lizama, Juanita Fajardo, Adam Sablan, and Captain Carl Brachear pose after the planting. They have participated in every single one of our plantings so far. We will plant trees on the hill in the background in two weeks. That planting should finish up the Lao Lao project until next rainy season.

You can probably surmise from the first photo in this post that we had another planting this morning up at the Lao Lao revegetation project. 29 volunteers and staff from RC&D, CRM, DEQ, and CNMI Forestry participated in this morning's plantings.

Tim Lang of CRM, Jeremy Shaw of DEQ, and Ben Cepeda and James Babauta of CNMI Forestry led the planting (with a little help from me). We drove the 146 saplings and 400 putting seeds to the start of the trail leading to the revegetation site and the volunteers and staff carried them up to the top of the mountain.

We've already planted a considerable number of trees (575!), so we had to carry the trees further into the revegeation site. We had to form and reform a human chain three times to get the trees to where we wanted to plant them. Another factor making this planting more difficult was the size of the saplings. Many were bigger than previous saplings. Some of them were in 3 gallon bags. Do you know how heavy 3 gallons of soil is?

In addition to the 146 saplings, we also broadcast 400 putting seeds. This is how the broadcasting works: Angelo carries a hundred pound bag of seeds up the mountain (each seed is about the size of a baseball) and then Josiah broadcasts them in every direction. See the photo below for a visual.

Then here are the obligatory pictures of volunteers putting trees into the ground:

During the planting, Adam said to his Mom, "look, a grenade!"

The fighting on Saipan stopped on July 9, 1944. This grenade has been sitting on the Lao Lao hillside for over 62 years. Great find, Adam!

Once again the volunteers from MOVER did an amazing job with the planting. This was the sixth consecutive week of plantings for them. Thank you, MOVER!

As we posed for our post-planting picture, a group of about 15 kids showed up at the revegeation site. They were on a hike being led by one of the teachers that participated in the Outdoor Classroom Experience with Koblerville Elementary School. I was really happy to see her bringing more kids up there. That means that our program is actually working!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Static Website

The idea of a project blog was my idea. The project deliverables actually call for a more traditional format website. We have one, I just haven't done anything with it since the project started.

I added some stuff this afternoon. Look for more stuff very soon.

Click HERE to visit the Marianas RC&D Homepage.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

200 More Trees!

Form a line, pass a tree:

Form a line, pass a tree:

Form a line, pass a tree:

Today we planted 200 more saplings up at the Lao Lao Revegetation Site. 66 local and visiting Boy Scouts helped us with the planting. The visiting Boy Scouts are from the Trapper Trails Council in Utah. They are hosting a Boy Scout camp near Lao Lao Bay to help us resurrect the Boy Scout Program on Saipan.

We can't thank them enough for their leadership and their service.

We also need to thank Rep. Cinta Kaipat for donating cups and for coordinating with PSS to get the boys transportation, PSS and Dr. David M. Borja for donating a school bus on less than 24 hours notice, CNMI Forestry for donating 200 saplings, and Coastal Resources Management for donating shovels, picks, and water.

Finally, we need to thank Boy Scout Troup 913, the Trapper Trails Council Boy Scouts, and the staff members of CRM, CNMI Forestry, and Rep. Cinta Kaipat's office for providing the volunteer labor.

Here are a few more pictures:

Monday, July 24, 2006

Letter to the Editor by the P.I.C.

I sent out this email to all of the people involved with Beautify CNMI...and the newspaper published it! It didn't mean for it to be a letter to the editor, but thanks!

Saipan Tribune, Monday, July 24, 2006

Just wanted to let everyone know that we planted 375 trees last July 17! That brings our total since June 19 up to 651 trees. We had 57 volunteers show up to help with the planting. Cinta Kaipat provided water, Tina Sablan provided donuts, and MOVER provided sandwiches and spaghetti.

Angelo Villagomez
Public Involvement Coordinator

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Do you speak Japanese?

Somebody is writing things about us on the Internet...but it is all in Japanese! The name of the website, translated literally into English is Saipan de Ekoraifu (Saipan de Ecolife?).

Click HERE to read the website.

Using my limited Japanese skills, I can pick up that the post from 7/23 is talking about our coconut plantings and erosion on Beach Road. The post from 7/17 is talking about, among other things, our Lao Lao revegetation project.

I don't speak (or read) enough to understand any more than that. I hope what they wrote shows us in a positive light!

1000 Trees!

With our planting of 488 trees along the beach this morning, the total number of trees planted by our island revegetation project stands at 1,139...and that is only since June 19th.

46 community volunteers, with coconuts, gloves, and shovels in hand, showed up at the 13 Fisherman Memorial at 8 AM to participate in the planting. About half of the volunteers were members of MOVER, the community group that helped us plant our first flame trees only one month ago. The other half were other concerned citizens.

In addition to the MOVER volunteers, we had help from Emily Gironda, Diana Felix, Juanita Fajardo, Adam Sablan, Zachary Sablan, Sid Cabrera, Kyle Kaipat, Dennis Cabrera, Joe Taijeron, EJ Lee, Carl Brachear, Cinta Kaipat, Josiah Lizama, AJ Lizama, Franklin Lizama, Brandon Lieto, Glen Hunter, and Tina Sablan.

Here we are planting tree number 1000. When it came time to put the sapling in the ground, every volunteer took a fistful of soil and threw it in the hole. That was Cinta's idea. Great idea, Cinta!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Flame Tree Fact Sheet - First Draft

I'm working on a Flame Tree fact sheet - here is the text from the first draft:

The first Flame Trees were brought to Saipan by Francisco Borja Kaipat when he worked for the Marianas agriculture program in the 1960s. He led a group of people who planted about 800 to 900 flame trees on Saipan. The oldest Flame Trees on island are a product of their work.

The Flame Tree, Delonix regia (family Fabaceae), is the state tree of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. It is also known by the names Royal Poinciana, Gulmohar, Flamboyant Tree, Peacock Flower, and Flame of the Forest. It has been described as the most colorful tree in the world. The tree's vivid flame red/orange flowers (there is a yellow variety, too!) and bright green foliage make it an exceptionally striking sight. Although it is native to Madagascar, it is widely cultivated and may be seen adorning avenues, parks and estates in tropical cities throughout the world. In Saipan they line Beach Road, the road to Marpi and the road to Ladder Beach.

Blooming in late spring through late summer, the flowers are large, with four spreading flame red or orange-red petals up to 8 cm long, and a fifth upright petal called the standard, which is slightly larger and spotted with yellow and white. Seed pods are dark brown and can be up to 60 cm long and 5 cm wide; the individual seeds, however, are small, weighing around 0.4 g on average. The compound leaves have a feathery appearance and are a characteristic light, bright green. They are doubly pinnate: Each leaf is 30-50 cm long and has 20 to 40 pairs of primary leaflets or pinnae on it, and each of these is further divided into 10-20 pairs of secondary leaflets or pinnules.

There are about 20-40 seeds in every Flame Tree seed pod. The seeds are bean size and are covered with a shiny membrane. Germinating the seeds can be a problem if the membrane is not removed. To remove the membrane, first file the seeds and then soak them for 24 hours. An easier method is to dip them in boiling water for 3-5 minutes and then let them soak overnight in warm water. The shiny membrane will start peeling in about 24 hours.

After planting, the seedlings should start to sprout in about a week. Flame Trees are very fast growing, about 5 ft per year until maturity, and tolerant of a wide range of well drained soils from acidic to alkaline and from loamy to gravelly. They can tolerate direct sunlight, but it is best to provide protection from strong winds.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Thursday's Environmental Page

Saipan Tribune, Thursday, July 20, 2006

Planting begins for Lao Lao Revegetation Project
Story and photos submitted by Tim Lang, CRM NPS Manager

After months of planning and preparations by CNMI Watershed Group agencies, tree planting is underway in the badlands of the Lao Lao Watershed. Following on-site instructions from Vic Guerrero of DLNR Forestry, over 60 volunteers planted 125 saplings and 250 cuttings high on the hills above Lao Lao Bay last Sunday, July 16.

The trees were planted in an area that had been burned, possibly by hunters illegally setting fires. When forest is removed from the land, whether by fire or other methods, soil erosion frequently results. This erosion causes soil depletion from land where it is needed, and sedimentation of streams and coastal waters, leading to algae blooms and loss of corals. In fact, the primary purpose of the Lao Lao revegetation project is to reduce sedimentation and subsequent coral loss at the Lao Lao dive site.

Sunday's volunteer planting effort was led by Beautify CNMI, in collaboration with Watershed Group agencies. Participants included the Filipino group MOVER; Beautify CNMI members, including organizers Rep. Cinta Kaipat and Angelo Villagomez of Marianas Resource Conservation & Development Council; teachers and students from Hopwood Junior High School; community volunteers; and agency personnel from the Dept. of Lands and Natural Resources Forestry Division, Division of Environmental Quality, and Coastal Resources Management Office.

According to Kaipat, one of the Forestry staff members was quite amazed with the teamwork shown by the Beautify CNMI volunteers.

"He stated that the Laulau tree-planting effort, which resulted in the planting of over 300 trees that morning, made their jobs so much easier," she said. "It was fun and it felt great to do something good to protect our environment and help beautify it. I was thrilled to see more new faces and was especially glad to see more young volunteers. Thanks to all the Beautify CNMI partners for another successful tree-planting effort."

Villagomez said the revegetation project "fits perfectly" into the Beautify CNMI's mission. "Not only will these native trees provide habitat and food for our native wildlife, they will also slow the erosion of the hillside into the bay. This will ultimately improve the health of the coral reef, which will in turn improve the diving for the tourists and the fishing for the locals," he said.

Following a revegetation plan prepared by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and DLNR Forestry, six species of tree saplings were planted: Sosugi (Acacia Confusa), Kamachili (Pithecolobium dulce), Banalo (Thespesia populnea), Gaogao flores (Erythrina sp.), Daok (Calophyllum inophyllum), and Madras cacao (Gliricidia sepium). These species were chosen for their ability to tolerate the harsh conditions of the badlands and, in some cases, for their nitrogen fixing properties. Pago (Hibiscus tiliaceus) cuttings were also planted. Once grown, these fire resistant trees are intended to serve as breaks should a fire occur in the future. However, the best defense against fires is to prevent them from starting, and all involved agencies encourage the public to report illegal burning activities to the Department of Public Safety at 664-9000, or 911.

Tree saplings for the project are being propagated at the DLNR nursery in Kagman. Forestry has already prepared more than 600 saplings for the Lao Lao revegetation project, in addition to the hundreds of other saplings they prepare for planting projects throughout the island. Fiesta Resort is also donating saplings for the project. Through grant awards from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, CRM has provided materials and supplies for an expansion of the nursery, propagation of saplings, and planting activities. DEQ is also contributing materials and supplies for propagation and planting through a grant administered by the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. Overall planning, funding and coordination for the Lao Lao Watershed Restoration project have been conducted through the CNMI Watershed Group, which includes representatives from all of the aforementioned local agencies.

Volunteer planting activities at Lao Lao will continue on weekends for another two to six weeks. If you are interested in joining Beautify CNMI and/or the Lao Lao revegetation effort, contact Angelo Villagomez, RC&D Public Involvement Coordinator, at 236-0894, or Tim Lang, CRM NPS Manager, at 664-8322. (Tim Lang)

Hiking up to the revegetation site.

Volunteers forming a human chain to pass the trees up the hillside.

Vic Guerrero of CNMI Forestry explains the six different tree species we planted.

After Vic went over the trees the volunteers spread out to do the planting. Who gave that kid that pick? (Just kidding, Tim was next to him the whole time)

Gus and Kyle Kaipat pose for the camera.

PSS teachers Diana Felix and Bree Reynolds inspect their work.

Volunteers spread out to plant the trees.

Posing with the MOVER volunteers.

Monday, July 17, 2006

In the news

Marianas Variety, Monday, July 17, 2006

375 trees planted at Laulau
By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa
Variety News Staff

MEMBERS of Beautify CNMI and 57 volunteers from various agencies and community groups planted 375 trees at the Laulau revegetation site yesterday morning.

The group met at the Sta. Soledad Church in Kagman and proceeded to the revegetation site.

The group planted six different species of saplings, 25 of which were donated by the Fiesta Resort and 100 by the Division of Forestry.

Angelo Villagomez, coral reef public involvement coordinator of the Marianas Resource Conservation and Development Council, said they aim to turn the wastershed area into a forest.

Villagomez said he and other members of Beautify CNMI such as Rep. Cinta M. Kaipat, Covenant-Saipan, and Tina Sablan of the Division of Environmental Quality were joined by volunteers from MOVER, Coastal Resources Management, the Division of Forestry and other community groups such as Stream Team.

The group started planting at 8 a.m. and finished by noon.

Villagomez said Kaipat provided water for the volunteers while Sablan and MOVER provided food.

The group will be planting coconut trees on Sunday along Beach Road and again in Laulau on following Sunday.

The tree planting project is spearheaded by Beautify CNMI’s restoration sub-committee chaired by Ken Kramer of the Marianas Resource Conservation and Development Council.

Since June 19, the group has already planted a total of 647 trees.

Beautify CNMI is a coalition of various government agencies, private and non-profit organizations as well as private citizens and visitors working together to foster community pride through a comprehensive beautification campaign aimed at enhancing the beauty of the island.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

First Lao Lao Planting

After all those meetings, all those site visits, and all those outdoor classroom experiences, we've finally started planting trees up on the Lao Lao hillside.

This morning we planted a total of 375 trees and broadcast 4600 seeds.

We planted a total of 125 saplings. The species were Sosugi (Acacia Confusa), Kamachili (Pithecolobium dulce), Banalo (Thespesia populnea), Gaogao (Erythrina sp.), Daok (Calophyllum inophyllum), and Madras Cacao (Gliricidia sepium). These species were all chosen by CNMI Forestry as species likely to grow in the damaged soils on the hillside.

We also planted 250 Pago (Hibiscus tiliaceus) cuttings. It might look like we just stuck a bunch of poles in the ground, but once it starts raining, those poles are going to grow into trees. These are going to serve as firebreaks that will hopefully help suppress fires in the years to come.

Then we broadcast 200 Putting (Barringtonia asiatica) seeds, 200 Kamachili (Pithecolobium dulce) seeds, and 4200 tangantanga (Leucaena leucocephala) seeds. These are very hardy species that will grow almost anywhere. We're hoping that these seeds will sprout and grow in the damaged soils of the badlands.

Today's effort was a collaborative effort between government agencies and community groups. Coastal Resources Management, CNMI Forestry, Division of Environmental Quality were involved in the planning and Beautify CNMI, MOVER, the Stream Team, and the Marianas Resource Conservation & Development Council provided the manpower.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Erythrina varigata

Erythrina varigata is commonly called tiger's claw, cat's claw, or coral tree. Locally it is called gaogao. It is in the Fabaceae Family, the members of which are more commonly referred to as legumes. These trees are very important for Saipan's charismatic macrofauna species. Fruit bats nest by hanging upside down in tall upper canopy trees such as Erythrina varigata. These trees can also help to slow erose and prevent sedimentation.

Gaogao has a very showy red flower. They are not supposed to be blooming, but there is one in Garapan with flowers. I'll take a picture and post it some time this week. It is a very pretty plant.

I was hiking on the North end of Saipan today and found two mature gaogao trees that had dropped a bunch of seed pods on the ground. They are supposed to drop their seeds in March, so I was surpised to find them. I picked up a few of them and brought them home. This is what they look like:

I'm going to use these seeds to propagate more trees. I will probably go back to the Banadero Trail to look for some more later this week.

Gaogao is one of the tree species that we will be using for our revegetation project at Lao Lao. Fiesta Resort has donated over 100 Erythrina varigata to our project. We will be planting 27 of them tomorrow...well, actually we'll be planting 26. I put one of them on my coffee table at home.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

How to Plant a Coconut Tree

Coconuts are highly invasive and are thus very easy to grow. They travel through the open ocean and have the ability to sprout on shores hundreds of miles away from where they were grown. They are very hardy. Getting them to grow is almost as simple as placing a seed where you want a tree to grow.

Here on Saipan, people dispose of their extra coconuts by throwing them in a pile in their backyard. It only takes a few months for that pile of coconuts to turn into a stand of coconut saplings. They grow quite easily and they grow very fast.

If you want to do a coconut planting, I recommend using a combination of coconut seeds and saplings. With the seeds, the first thing you have to do is to make sure that they are viable. You do this by shaking the coconut seed. If you hear water, the seed is viable. If you don't hear water, the seed is dead.

Take your viable coconut seed and dig a small hole in the sand. It doesn't need to be deep. You can even use you hands if you want. Find the largest of the three lobes and face it towards the sky. Place the coconut into the hole lying on its side, just like if it had fallen from a tree, and cover about 2/3 of the husk with soil or sand.

If you are planting saplings, follow pretty much the same procedure, but dig a deeper hole to accomadate the roots. Also, if you are using saplings, make sure that when you first remove them from where they were originally growing that you do not damage the roots.

The seed should start sprouting within a month. If it doesn't sprout within two months, you've got a dud. Grab another seed and repeat the procedure.

For our planting on Beach Road we planted our coconuts in groups of three, four, or five spaced out about every 20 feet. We did this for a variety of reasons. Not all of the coconuts will survive and some will be duds. Some will also be washed away by the ocean. We wanted to plant enough to ensure that at least some of them survive. Planting them in groups will also cut down on the effects of wind during storm events.

We planted saplings and seeds grouped together. We do not know whether the saplings or the seeds will have a higher success rate, so we wanted to spread out the risk. The seeds have everything they need to grow for their first few months contained inside the husk, but since the saplings are already growing, you can be assured that they are viable. Only time will tell which method is more successful.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Name that plant!

I found this shrub growing along the beach in Lao Lao. I thought it was pretty. Is it native? A little help, please!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Koblerville Summer Camp

The Stream Team brought 27 students and five teachers up to the Lao Lao revegetation site for an Outdoor Classroom Experience this morning. The kids ranged from the first grade to the seventh grade.

Here are the kids and teachers hiking through the revegetation area:

Some of the boys found spent bullet casings:

These bullets are too big to be used by hunters. The CNMI government only allows hunters to use 22 caliber rifles...those bullets are bigger than that. They are probably from World War II.

After hiking through the revegetation area we loaded back onto the bus and drove down to the Lao Lao dive site. We looked at Stream Crossing #9 and then the mouth of the stream.

It rained a lot this weekend, so there was a lot of water in this part of the stream. We spent about 15 minutes throwing rocks into the stream. I don't know why. We just did.

We also spent a considerable amount of time exploring the delta extending onto the reef flat:

There were a lot of divers going in and out of the water. There were also people fishing. The kids were able to identify diving and fishing as activities that depend on a healthy reef.

Smart kids!

We didn't have time for a stream cleanup, but every single one of those kids can recite, "What we do on the land can affect our marine environment!"