Tuesday, December 26, 2006

RC&D in the News

Saipan Tribune, Saturday, December 23, 2006

DEQ awards prizes to recycling winners
By Marconi Calindas

Recycling heroes gathered once more at the Division of Environmental Quality Conference Room yesterday to receive their prizes for winning the recycling competition held in November.

The Northern Marianas Academy, a private school in the Commonwealth, topped this year’s CNMI Recycles Day competition. The school collected a total of 50,380 lbs of recyclable materials. There were 34 NMA students who participated in the contest, bringing in 1,481.8 lbs of trash per student.

Marianas Visitors Authority director Perry A. Tenorio joined DEQ officers Tina Sablan and Reina Camacho in presenting the prizes to the winning schools yesterday.

NMA won $600 cash prize, plus 30 waterpark passes to Pacific Islands Club and 20 seedlings, courtesy of the CNMI Forestry.

Eucon International School ranked second, with a total of 22,459 lbs of recyclable materials. This means the109 students who participated brought in an average of 206 lbs of trash.

Public school Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School placed third after each of its 221 student brought in 166.7 lbs of trash for a total of 36,837 lbs.

San Antonio Elementary School ended up with 115.6 lbs per 239 participating students for an overall total of 38,020 lbs.

Grace Christian Academy ranked fifth with 75 lbs per student (total of 360 students). The private school accumulated a total of 27,220 lbs of trash.

Saipan International School, William S. Reyes Elementary School and Koblerville Elementary School followed the ranking with 63.9 lbs, 36.7 lbs, and 33.3 lbs per student respectively.

There were 24 private and public schools that participated in this year’s Recycles Day competition.

The competition based its scores on the recyclable wastes gathered by each student that participated in the competition.

This year’s CNMI Recycles Day partners and supporters included Ericco (provided free recycling collection for the schools); Ginen Saipan; Pepsi; Pacific Islands Club; Hotel Nikko Saipan; Hafadai Publishing; Saipan Shipping; MS Villagomez; and Java Joe's as corporate sponsors.

Government supporters were the Office of the Governor; Office of the Lt. Governor; Marianas Visitors Authority (prizes, logistical support); DPW; DEQ; Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Forestry Division (for the seedlings of all participating schools); and Office of Rep. Cinta Kaipat; Office of Rep. Absalon Waki. Nonprofit partners: Saipan Chamber of Commerce; Marianas RC&D; MINA; and MOVER.

This year’s contest committee members were Camacho, Angelo Villagomez, Steve Hiney, Barrett Ristroph, Bree Reynolds, Frank Tudela, Ed Diaz, Elly Stoilova, Ken Kramer; Cinta Kaipat; Absalon Waki, Gus Kaipat, Viola Kaipat, Nina Rivera, Marites Castillo, Merced Ada, and Sablan.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hopwood Junior High School Tree Planting

This afternoon 27 students from Hopwood Junior High School, with a little help from Marianas Resource Conservation & Development Council, planted 75 Da'ok trees (Calophyllum inophyllum) around their campus. When they are taller, the trees will provide shade for students who have classes outdoors or who choose to go outside during breaks.

Hopwood Students Planting TreesJust ask any number of students sitting under the short supply of tall trees on Hopwood's campus if they prefer sitting in the shade or in the sun. The temperature in the shade can be 10 degrees cooler than the temperature in the sun (Click here for a student science project comparing soil temperatures in sun and shade).

Hopwood Students Planting TreesWe planted trees around the perimeter of the playing field and in the area around the flagpole. The trees around the playing field will play the dual purpose of providing shade and blocking out some of the noise from Beach Road.

Hopwood Students Planting TreesThe students who participated in today's planting will probably be in college by the time these trees are tall enough to provide considerable shade, but I'm sure they'll remember the Monday afternoon that they spent digging and planting in the sun. Hopefully they'll come back to Hopwood with their younger brothers and sisters and point out the Da'ok trees they planted way back in 2006.

HopwoodThe Da'ok trees were donated by Caesar and Ignacia Villluz. The shovels and picks were donated by Marianas RC&D. The students are in Mrs. Bree Reynolds 7th period Science Lab.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Wing Beach

Wing Beach CleanupFrom Kathy Yuknavage, Mariana Islands Nature Alliance Secretary:

Today was a great success and a lot of fun. Marianas Resort staff and Mr. Jim Phillip’s Marine Science class from Marianas High School were already at the beach picking up when Ted and I arrived at 7:45. They informed us that there was very little trash. The dumpster is working marvelously.

MINA cleanupWe only had to use one truck to haul the limited amount of litter collected. In fact we included the bags of garbage removed from the dumpster; all told weighing less than 120 lbs.

Angelo VillagomezGiven that we had very little to do to clean up, the 35 volunteers, including representatives from Aqua Resort Club, Beautify CNMI!, and the Church of Latter Day Saints, headed towards the main road to plant trees. Our newly elected Executive Director, Angelo Villagomez from Beautify CNMI! and RC&D brought a total of 30 Do’ak trees. The volunteers cleared brush, ignored their boonie bee stings and planted the trees along the south side of the access road. They have all been flagged so MINA and our co-adopters, Marianas Resort, can trade off keeping the brush cut back around them. It feels wonderful to actually have time to enhance the natural habitat of this pristine beach, rather than just remove litter. I hope we can continue to keep this and some of our other undeveloped beach fronts in their “primitive” state for those that like to have open sky and stars overhead.

Saipan LDSWalt GoodridgeWing Beach CleanupHope to see all of you next month to work on MINA Drive.



Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Name that fish!

Weird FishWhoever correctly names this fish gets an autographed 8x10 of the RC&D Executive Committee!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Micronesian Challenge meeting this week

The Restoration Committee of Beautify CNMI, chaired by RC&D's Angelo Villagomez, will be discussing and implementing Education and Outreach plans for the Micronesian Challenge this Thursday, December 14 at 7:30 PM at Cafe at the Park in Garapan. Everyone is welcome to attend, but we especially want you there if you are a local fisherman, diver, teacher, or student.

We will disseminate the findings from last week's meetings in Palau and then begin the process of implanting the Micronesian Challenge into the hearts and minds of the people of the CNMI.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

RC&D in the News

Saipan Tribune, Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Saipanpreneur Project: Creating economic success for the CNMI
Saipanpreneur Profile: Angelo Villagomez of Beautify CNMI!

By Walt F.J. Goodridge
Special to the Saipan Tribune

Angelo VillagomezLike the island nation he calls home, Angelo Villagomez has his feet and his future planted in two worlds. Born here in 1978, Angelo left for Massachusetts at age 3, spent a year in England when he was 13 (the family indulged his mom’s adventurous streak), went to high school in Florida, graduated from the University of Richmond in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in Biology, and then got a second degree in Environmental Policy. In November 2005, he went to Japan on his own adventure.

It was shortly afterwards, in December 2005, that he got the call that brought him back to Saipan to say a final earthly goodbye to his father. Then, after a brief return to Japan, he moved back to Saipan in March 2006.

"You can either call me a Chamorro-born American, or an American-educated Chamorro," he says of his unique perspective. It’s this straddling of two cultures, two sets of values, two worldviews, two life experiences that makes him uniquely qualified to pursue his passion and share his vision.

"The cultural lines of identity and separation that others may see are invisible to me," he adds. "But some things ARE visible. Like many people who spend enough time off island, I’m able to recognize some of our shortcomings from a different perspective. I’m not the first or the only person to see the need for change. It’s just my special calling to do something about it."

And that he has! Angelo works for the Marianas Resource Conservation and Development Council to organize volunteers to help with tree plantings, water quality and dive surveys. In addition, his volunteer participation as the energy behind the restoration committee of the "Beautify CNMI!" coalition has earned him tremendous public support and recognition. He, along with volunteers and fellow visionaries Tina Sablan, Cinta Kaipat, Reina Camacho and Steve Hiney form the heart and soul of this unique group-defined on their website as "a coalition of concerned citizens, private groups, and government entities united to enhance the CNMI’s natural beauty and foster community pride in its residents and visitors." (www.BeautifyCNMI.com)

It was at a meeting in June 2006, at what was then called The Beautification Group, which had started meeting a month earlier, that Angelo lit a fire of forward motion and set a new pace with his "do it now" approach to getting things done.

"At the meeting, we were all planning a tree planting project. I got an idea, so I said, ’Who’s got four trees? I mean, like, right now? Parks & Recreation had the trees. Ok, who’s got some shovels? No one had shovels, so I got them. Public Works said they’d dig the holes. We painted them gold, organized a little media event on short notice and we went out four days later, and planted four trees! The next meeting-same thing: ’Who’s got more trees?’ This time, P&R had seven, and we did it again...and it just snowballed from there."

His commitment, steeped in the character-building experience of a presidential campaign trail in the U.S., which honed an already innate persistence, brought and infused a new energy to the group. Since then, that small group of core volunteers, which eventually became Beautify CNMI has achieved an impressive record:

- 2,000 trees have been planted since June;

- 260,000 lbs of recyclable material have been collected in just two months;

- 3,380 volunteers showed up for the islandwide cleanup on Oct 20.

"Think about it," Angelo explains. "One in 20 people who call Saipan home cared enough to stop the normal routines of their lives to come out in the hot sun for the single purpose of making this a cleaner place to live and raise their families."

That IS impressive. Beautify CNMI is galvanizing the community in a way that’s never been done. Chamorros, Carolinians, Filipinos, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and many others are all uniting every week with a common goal. (Imagine. No, better yet, come out and experience it!).

Indeed, veterans of volunteerism, pundits of public activism, and equally important givers of grants are likewise impressed.

"As a non-profit coalition, we depend heavily on grants from foundations and the federal government to help us in what we do," Angelo explains. "But the reality is that ’money follows success’ in the grant world, and we are 'successful' since we have overwhelming public support for what we do, an unlimited supply of volunteer labor, and people who are coming out and working together. Foundations love to see people working together. That translates into money in the form of federal grants which will help us promote and grow environmental stewardship in the CNMI."

"Our environment is our economy," Angelo explains. "Who we are has been defined by our environment. We can afford to have and feed big families because of our geography and access to fishing.

"What we do is also defined by our environment. We can use tourism as an economic booster because of the beauty of our natural environment."

"Based on the impact you’ve been having, it’s hard to believe that you’ve been here as an adult just since March of 2006,” I remark. “So what brought you back to Saipan?"

"Oh, without a doubt, chicken kelaguen! That’s the number one reason I came back!" he jokes. "The truth is Saipan is magical for me. My childhood memories are here. I can remember going fishing here. Just being here brings back those memories. If I go someplace, knowing that my father was here, and his father was here, it’s a powerful feeling."

With a tear in his eye, Angelo speaks nostalgically about his passion for Saipan, the environment and its preservation, and of other childhood memories that fuel his passion.

"I’ve always loved nature," he recalls. "There was nothing greater...nothing greater than being out there with my dad, fishing, hiking...."

As the power of the feeling overcomes him, the thought is left unfinished, and unheard-at least for those who listen only with ears. But for those who read men’s hearts and souls, one immediately senses that Angelo’s mission to honor the CNMI’s beauty is about his tribute to the land of his birth, and perhaps the fulfillment of a personal promise-one that he uses to maintain a deeper private connection to a past filled with memories that a son and his father shared.

“What's the greatest lesson you've learned from this?” I ask.

"That you can’t do it alone," he immediately replies. "From day one this has been a team effort. At Beautify CNMI!, we always say everyone in the community is a member, they just don’t know it yet. I’ve had the pleasure of working with people who are competent, and in all honesty, usually exceed expectations."

“And what's the next step?”

"Well, we’ll continue our projects, do more beach cleanups, anti-littering, tree planting, but the next big long-term project is The Micronesian Challenge. (The Challenge, first proposed by Palau President Tommy Remengasau Jr., and taken up by the leaders of the CNMI, Guam, Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia, is to "effectively conserve 30 percent of "near shore" resources, 20 percent of forest resources" by 2020.) Beautify CNMI!’s mission is to get the vision of this challenge into the heads and hearts of the people of the CNMI.

It’s a vision that mirrors and complements Angelo’s own-for Angelo’s vision for the CNMI includes more than the necessary first steps of clearing the streets of trash and repainting buildings and bus stops. It’s a vision national in its implementation, regional in its overall effect, global in its long-term impact, and universal in its respect of our shared human experience.

"We have more coral reefs than any place in the world,” Angelo offers. “So when this challenge is successful we will have protected larger swaths of reef than any other. We can be the shining star of Micronesia in that regard. The CNMI can, should and will be THE place for people to witness and experience coral reef conservation in action. The CNMI also can, should and will be known for industries, opportunities and based on our natural resources.

“So, when a Chamorro starts a locally-owned dive shop here on island, when a Carolinian starts a touring and trekking company, when a young person of any background starts a website design business, or some sort of Internet-based product and service for tourists who’ve come to experience our environment and culture, it will be because we've taken the time to preserve and beautify it. We will become known for the best aspects of our culture, traditions and natural resources. So that when a child is asked by any visitor what are we known for, she can say

1. latte stones

2. traditional navigation

3. Coral reefs...

...and, of course, chicken kelaguen!

“My grandfather was a fisherman. My father, even though he was a judge, still caught fish off the reef to feed his family. And I’m employed by an organization that focuses on reef conservation. So, in effect, I’m still making a living through the coral reef. I’m just doing it in a different way.

“There’s more than one type of activity that can be supported by the existence of our reefs and natural resources.”

And that is why this week’s Saipanpreneur column is a profile in passion that is paving the way for employees to get jobs, entrepreneurs to launch profitable businesses, and for children not yet born, the children of today who will be their parents, and the grandparents they will become tomorrow to enjoy the beauty and benefits from the foundation being laid today by average citizens.

"So, what’s the one thing you want people to know? I asked Angelo finally.

"Well, I’d like people to remember that it’s not the government’s responsibility. This is OUR home. It’s my home and YOUR home. It’s only 3 miles by 17 miles and if WE don’t take care of it, no one is going to take care of it for us. Whether it’s picking up trash or improving our economy, we can’t wait for the federal government. What I love about Beautify CNMI! is that it embodies a traditionally independent spirit and a belief that we are self-sufficient and that we CAN do it ourselves. Help from the outside can supplement, but we really should strive to be helping ourselves. The success of Beautify CNMI! shows that we’re ready and that we ARE doing it!"

* * *

I hope you enjoyed today's profile. Now you'll understand why when I thought about launching a website to capture the passion of those who proudly call the CNMI home, Angelo was the first person I contacted. Read Angelo's and other profiles at www.WeLoveSaipan.com . And keep up-to-date with Beautify CNMI's events and volunteer projects at www.BeautifyCNMI.com

* * *

Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!

(Walt F.J. Goodridge is author of 12 books including Turn Your Passion Into Profit. Walt offers coaching and workshops to help people pursue and profit from their passions. Originally from the island of Jamaica, Walt has grown several successful businesses in the US, and now makes his home here in Saipan. To learn more about the Saipanpreneur Project and Walt's philosophy and formula visit www.saipanpreneur.com and www.passionprofit.com. Send article suggestions, entrepreneur nominations and feedback about this article to walt@passionprofit.com.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Marianas RC&D takes on the Micronesian Challenge

The Micronesian Challenge seeks to effectively conserve 30 percent of near shore marine resources and 20 percent of forest resources by 2020.

The Challenge was first proposed by Palau President Tommy Remengasau Jr. and has been taken up by the leaders of the CNMI, Guam, Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia. The Saipan Tribune reported on the Micronesian Challenge in August 2006.

Beautify CNMI! and RC&D officially took on the Micronesian Challenge today. Some of our partners from Division of Fish & Wildlife, Division of Environmental Quality, Coastal Resource Management Office, and the Acting Governor are in Palau this week meeting with the four other Micronesian nations to work out some of the details of the Challenge.

They are looking for answers to some of the following questions:

What is meant by Effective Conservation?
What uses will be allowed in Effectively Conserved areas?
How will we pay for Effective Conservation?
What is a near shore resource?
Does it include mangroves?
How far from the shore do you go?
How deep do you go?
How do you quantify 30%?
What is a forest resource?
Does a forest include wetlands?
How do you quantify 20%?
Are these areas interconnected?
How about endangered species?
How about migrating species?

The answers to these questions might seem simple, but we are trying to come up with a long term solution for sustaining our natural resources, the cornerstone of our economy. This will require among many things, laws, regulations, and enforcement, all which have to be very specific and very precise.

The discussion to find the answers to these questions will themselves undoubtedly lead to another round of questions. Other agenda items to be considered during this week's conference in Palau are:
  • Designating a regional body to coordinate the Challenge
  • Reviewing existing conservation strategies and plans in each nation's jurisdiction
  • Establishing specific, quantifiable targets
  • Establishing a process for regular review of the Micronesian Challenge's goals and accomplishments
Keep in mind that this is a long term Challenge. We have been mandated to have the goals of the Challenge accomplished by 2020. This project is going to take a considerable amount of planning and public input. Our goal over the next few months is to explain the Micronesian Challenge and to start the process of bringing the community together to find ways to make this Challenge a success.

Undoubtedly, all the nations involved in the Challenge will undergo administration changes, economic challenges, and any number of unforeseen events. The Challenge strives to rise above all that, to galvanize conservation efforts in all of Micronesia, in much the same way that Beautify CNMI! has galvanized environmental stewardship efforts in the CNMI.

That gives us 14 years to discuss, disagree, examine, and reexamine how we will make the Micronesian Challenge a success. When we succeed in this endeavor, Micronesia will find a place on the map as a world class success story for coral reef and forest conservation.

My challenge to you is to help make the CNMI the success story for Micronesian coral reef and forest conservation. Are you with me?