Thursday, September 20, 2007

Protect Our Coral Reefs

Joeten Kiyu LibraryMarianas Resource Conservation & Development Council recently donated two large Protect Our Coral Reef banners to the library. There are also banners hanging at the USDA office and the RC&D office. We're preparing one for the National Park Service to hang at American Memorial Park.

If you know of a high visibility place to hang one, let me know and I'll see if we can get one to you. The posters read, "What we do on the land can affect our marine environment."

People may not realize this, but our activities on the land affect our coral reefs as much if not more than our activities that take place in the water. Divers, swimmers, crown of thorn starfish, typhoons, bleaching events, and anchors can do a number on coral reefs, but they can and do bounce back after disturbances.

That is not the case if the water is loaded with sediment, pesticides, fertilizers, bacteria, sewage, and other pollutants. When these stressors are present, the reef may not come back after a disturbance.


There was another Marianas Dive meeting last night. This time we met up at Porky's. The owner, Bruce Bateman, has agreed to donate 10% of all food & drink sales on nights that we have meetings there.

The meeting last night was led by Mike Tripp.

Mike Tripp SaipanMike is the guy with the goofy smile on the left. He's the leader of Marianas Dive. He's Canadian, so we call him the Prime Minister. He is a local diver/retired pharmacist and is the producer of The Underwater World of Saipan.

Before I get into the meeting, this is from the Marianas Dive website:

The Marianas Dive group is dedicated to creating a resource, a world class destination and a community for the purpose of increasing awareness, promoting education, and ensuring the protection of the underwater world of the Marianas Islands (Saipan, Tinian, Rota) and the unique diving experience it offers.

Mission Statement: Awareness, Education & Protection

The Marianas Dive group is dedicated to creating a resource, a world class destination and a community for the purpose of increasing awareness, promoting education, and ensuring the protection of the underwater world of the Marianas Islands (Saipan, Tinian, Rota) and the unique diving experience it offers.

A Resource
We shall begin by networking and using the Internet and all promotional tools available to create a Marianas Dive information portal.Ê This information will be amassed and provided to the local and international dive, and scientific communities and be available in the languages of all our target tourist countries.

A World Class Destination
We shall ensure that the Mariana Islands meet or beat the expectations of a being a safe, environmentally friendly, world class dive destination.Ê This includes improving diver safety and reducing environmental impact by assisting with the implementation and maintenance of a proper mooring system, including marker buoys and guide ropes at all popular dive sites. It is also our goal to ensure all divers are environmentally aware of their impact on the reef and marine environment.

A Community
We are, above all else, a community that shares a love of all things underwater. We shall promote fellowship and camaraderie among all divers who enjoy the waters of the Marianas whether full time, during occasional trips or as weekend warriors. We shall meet regularly, organize group dives and social events that allow members to interact, swap stories, discuss ideas and to get to know one another personally. We welcome all regardless of nationality, culture, level or frequency of dive experience.
Seems like a pretty good idea to me, doesn't it?

The meeting itself was pretty short. Mike updated everyone on the progress of the website, pending legislation, finances ,formation of a 501(c)3 and the fun dive, beach cleanup, dive cleanup sponsored by the group.

After the meeting, officials from the Division of Fish & Wildlife came in to go over the DFW rules & regulations. I learned several things last night. I didn't know that you needed a permit to collect shells or to have an aquarium. Any aquarium.

Who knew?

Although we had a few issues with our screen and microphone cord, the presentation went well. The presentation was followed by a question & answer session.

There were a few issues that I thought were confusing. We were told that it is illegal to walk on exposed reef. Does that mean that it is OK to walk on the reef during high tide, but not low tide? We were also told that people are not allowed to walk on Forbidden Island or Bird Island. I didn't see that written anywhere in the regulations, but I'm an idiot, so that could explain why I didn't see them.

Marianas Dive has a discussion board. It is a great place to keep people talking about these ideas. I hope that the DFW officials sign up. Maybe we could start a thread just on regulations?

Overall I thought the meeting and the DFW presentation were very successful. It was well attended. There were local divers, dive shop operators, boat operators, tour operators, and fishermen. Representatives Palacios, Tebuteb, and Waki were also there.

Ray TebutebAbsalon WakiThe next meeting of Marianas Dive will be the first Wednesday in October. I don't remember where it will take place. Check there website for info.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Thanks, Ruth

From On My Mind
- As in 'big oaks from little acorns grow,' the first step in establishing a network of trails in a statewide park system will be taken tomorrow, Saturday. Tom Gipson's Boy Scout troop hopes to earn a merit badge by cleaning up and promoting the trail that goes from the Last Command Post in Marpi up to Suicide Cliff and will make its initial "reconnaissance" of the trail Saturday, starting at 8:45 a.m. Beautify CNMI! and the Marianas Resource Conservation and Development Council, with whom the idea for the proposed statewide system originated, will be assisting the project.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Photo Contest Winners

On Friday night we announced the 10 finalists and the Grand Prize winner of the Photo Contest to raise awareness for the Micronesia Challenge. Here are a few of the top 10:

Leslie Ware won the Grand Prize with his photo of a Fairy Tern flying in front of some Flame Trees. He won a one night stay at Aqua Resort and lunch for two at Grand Hotel.

He also had two other photos chosen as top 10 finalists:

These next two photos were taken by Takahiro Noguchi. If I had been a judge, I would have chosen the picture of the fish as the Grand Prize winner (Sorry, Les).

Laura Williams from Division of Fish & Wildlife submitted this photo of Bikkia tetrandra:

I'm not sure if the judges have a sense of humor or if this is just a coincidence, but Harry Blalock's photo of a hermit crab was chosen as a finalist:

This photo of Yoshimi Yanagasawa and her Mom was also chosen:

Aya Matsumoto had two photos in the top 10:

Here are two of the winning photographers accepting their Beautify CNMI prize packs:

Each Beautify CNMI giftpack includes one of our turtle bags, two t-shirts, several bumper stickers, and a limited edition Beautify CNMI mug.

They are limited edition because I dropped the bag they were in and about 1/4 of them broke.


The top 10 finalists and 10 Honorable Mentions were on display at our event at the Grand Hotel on Friday.

After the announcement of the winners we had a public forum hosted by Marianas Resource Conservation & Development Council (that's me). Over 30 people participated, including several public school teachers. Dr. Peter Houk, Biologist from Division of Environmental Quality, and Greg Moretti, Marine Protected Area Specialist from NOAA, presented on some of the work they are doing concerning the Micronesia Challenge.

Afterwards we had a long question & answer session.

The event was a success.

Thank you, Aqua Resort, Grand Hotel,and Marianas RC&D for providing prizes!

Thank you, Grand Hotel for hosting the event!

Thank you, Marianas RC&D for paying!

Laly 4 Cleanup

Why is the Beach in Chalan Kanoa called Laly 4? Does anyone know where Laly 1, 2, and 3 are located?

Well, whatever the reason, on Saturday morning 20 Hopwood Junior High School Students, 1 LISS student, two teachers, two dogs, and one soccer playing tree hugger cleaned it from Hopwood Junior High School to Sugar Dock.

Most of the litter was trash left over from picnics. We did not find any illegal dumping (this time) and not much washes up on the beach here.

If people would just learn to pick up after themselves we could have a nice clean beach. The adults on this island are lucky that their children are willing to pick up after them.

Student Action for a Viable EnvironmentThank you, Student Action for a Viable Environment!

Beautify CNMI Mailing List

Are you on the Beautify CNMI mailing list?

Every Monday morning I send out a summary of the weekend's activites. On Thursdays I send out the upcoming weekend's activities. If there is a meeting on a particular day, I send out a meeting reminder.

If you are not on the list and you would like to be, please email Angelo at angelovillagomez at gmail dot com.

Here is my update from this morning:

Good Monday Morning,

We had several successful events over the weekend.

On Friday, we announced the winners of the Photo Contest to raise awareness of the Micronesia Challenge and over 30 people participated in a public forum discussing Marine Protected Areas and Coral Reefs. On Saturday, the members of the Student Action for a Viable Environment clubs cleaned up the beach in Chalan Kanoa and one of the pocket beaches in Dandan. On Sunday, Friends of the Mariana Islands cleaned up Dandan Road. The Lion's Club was also out this weekend cleaning up their adopted spot along Beach Road (sorry, I forgot if that was Saturday or Sunday).

There will be a Parks & Trails meeting this Thursday at 1 PM. The meeting is in the USDA Conference Room, on the first floor of the DY Buidling in Garapan on Beach Road. If you have questions, please contact Ken Kramer, RC&D Coordinator, at 236-0893.

This Saturday we should be planting the last of our Flame Trees...I just don't know where yet.

This Sunday we will be in the Garapan Tourist District. Our cleanup meets at the AMP Parking lot and begins at 8 AM.

Have a great week!


Monday, August 06, 2007

Carnival of the Blue III

Carnival of the BlueA post on my personal blog was included in Carnival of the Blue III, hosted on Rick MacPherson's blog Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets. Carnival of the Blue is a roundup of a month's worth of the best ocean blogging on the Internet.

The Saipan Blog will host Carnival of the Blue IV on September 3. I am currently looking for contributors. Please publish your post and email me the link at angelovillagomez at g mail dot com. Once I publish the carnival, all you have to do in return is to add a link to it in a post on your blog. It is a great way to build traffic and connect with other bloggers interested in ocean issues.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Micronesia Challenge Photo Contest

Micronesia Challenge Photo Contest

In 2006, Governor Benigno Fitial joined the leaders of Palau, Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands to sign the Declaration of Commitment to the Micronesia Challenge. He pledged that the CNMI would work "to effectively conserve 30% of our near shore resources and 20% of our forest resources by 2020."

A CNMI Outreach & Education Committee is charged with publicly promoting the goals and activities of the Micronesia Challenge. Composed of representatives from government, environmental non-profits, and other members of the community, the Committee is seeking photographs to use in outreach materials.

In order to obtain as wide a variety of high quality photos as possible about the CNMI, the Committee hereby announces the “Micronesia Challenge Photo Contest”.


•Photos must relate to the Micronesia Challenge and must be taken within the CNMI.

•Photos can be professional or amateur. The content of the photos is up to the artist.

•Photos can be underwater, terrestrial, or aerial, can be natural and/or include wildlife, flora, or different types of people such as children, locals, and tourists in different settings. Other possible photos can show the effects on the environment of poor management and good management practices.

•Suggested themes from past and present campaigns that may help the artist come up with ideas include:

1.What we do on the land can affect our marine environment
2.More Fish, Less Pollution
3.Let Our Islands Shine
4.Our Environment: Our Health, Our Future.

•Photos must be digital and emailed to

•Each artist is allowed to submit up to 10 photos.

•Photos become the property of the Micronesia Challenge Outreach and Education Committee.

•The best photos will be showcased on a website with appropriate photo credit give to the contributing artist.

Prizes are yet to be announced, but the top 10 artists will receive a Beautify CNMI gift pack.

Contest ends August 20th at 5 PM, followed by the announcement of the winners August 24th at a Happy Hour Panel Discussion with government and non-government officials involved with the implementation of the Challenge. If you have any questions, please contact Angelo Villagomez at 483-1078.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why are they dumping sand, again?

Beach Road renourishment

They were dumping sand right in front of the office with supervision from somebody at CRM. This is known as renourishment; however, by killing the grass, they make the beach erosion many times worse during the next storm event.

My preference for a solution might be:

"More intriguing, he says, is a submerged breakwater, which offer many of the same benefits, without besmirching the horizon with rock piles. In essence, a submerged breakwater acts as a coral reef, causing the waves to break before reaching shore. However, Dalrymple says the details of how and where to build them have yet to be worked out. . . ...)."

From: Why Files

Also see: Seafriends and Florida Beach Management Plan

This leads to the question: Do we have a plan for beach restoration? or just add sand every year? Kill the grass and vegetation and create more of a problem than existed before.

Florida has a beach management program.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What is Beautify CNMI?

A lot of us who volunteer for Beautify CNMI take for granted that the world understands what it is that we are. This video should help explain.

Monday, July 16, 2007

36 Flame Trees Planted in Koblerville

Koblerville SaipanBeautify CNMI has several long term goals. We want to promote Ecotourism in the CNMI (there is currently no Ecotourism here), we want to restore and promote many of our historical landmarks (i.e. the Japanese Jail and the Lighthouse) as tourist/historical sites, we want to reduce illegal dumping and littering, and we want to create an interconnected system of parks and trails.

One of those parks is going to be located on top of the old airstrip in Koblerville, currently the site of the Koberville Youth Center and Substation.

We started work on this project last year. We took an overgrown old abandoned airstrip littered with trash and grafitti and simply started cleaning.

We mowed the grass. We got rid of the weeds. We painted over the grafitti.

We've kept this up for almost a year.

Last month, with the involvement of several government entities, we helped open up the Koblerville Youth Center. For almost a month now, we've participated in Family Fun Night, held at the Youth Center every Friday night for the residents of Koblerville.

Little by little, we are getting people to use the park and we are continuously improving it.

Flame TreesYesterday morning we planted 36 Flame Trees along the street. They are small now, but in a year they will be over 10 feet tall. In three years they will be tall enough to provide shade.

About six months ago I asked one of the Mariana Island Nature Alliance members, Brad Doerr, to start growing Flame Trees. I told him that I didn't have money to pay him then, but by the time they were tall enough to plant, I would.

I came up with an Adopt-a-Flame tree program. For $20 via cash, check or paypal, anyone in the world could purchase a Flame Tree. I promised the adoptee a certificate and a picture of their tree posted on the Internet along with the GPS coordinates of their tree.

I use the money to purchase the trees, soil, flagging tape, shovels, and whatever else we need to get the trees planted. Then I recruit volunteers to help me plant the trees and invite the people who adopted the trees to tag along.

Yesterday I had help from Ken Kramer, his mom, his wife and two kids, Missy and Jim Highfill and their kid, Rep. Cinta Kaipat, Gus Kaipat and his 30-40 nephews, Marites Castillo and the Friends of the Mariana Islands, Captain Carl and his two shipmates, Neta and Flurina, Brad Doerr, and Laura Williams and her son Caleb.

All it took for us to get these 36 trees planted were 26 tree planting volunteers (including myself), a little pre-planning on my part to ensure that we would have Flame Trees to plant during the rainy season (coordinating with Brad), and 36 generous donors to spend $20 to adopt a Flame Tree. In getting the trees adopted, we also had help from everyone who helped us man our booth at the Flame Tree Arts Festival back in April and MINA, which takes care of Beautify CNMI's finances.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that planting these 36 trees was a community effort. Probably well over 100 people had a hand in coordinating the planting, from making sure that we had trees, shovels, soil, finances, water, snacks for volunteers, to getting people to adopt the trees, to actually planting the trees, and so on and so on.

Thanks to every single one of you who helped out. These 36 trees are a significant contribution to the community of Koblerville. In 5 years, we'll all be able to say that we had a hand in providing shade, beauty, and cooler temperatures to the residents of Koblerville.

One last thing, Cinta told me to get in the group picture, so I did this:

Angelo Villagomez

Monday, July 02, 2007

Environmental Camp wrapup in the Variety

Members of the press attending our Flame Tree planting on Friday morning. This article appeared in the Marianas Variety today. The print edition had a picture of the students, but does not appear on the online edition.

Summer camp student eyes career in environmental protection
By Emmanuel T. Erediano
Variety News Staff

AT least one of the 15 middle school students who participated in the summer camp last week will pursue environmental protection as a career when she graduates from high school.

Sami Birmingham Babauta, 13, who will be with Hopwood Junior High School in the coming school year, is vice president of the Students Action for Viable Environment.
According to counselor Doug Reynolds, Babauta has decided to pursue a career in natural resource conservation.

Babauta, during the final day of the summer camp sponsored by the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance, said the activity aims to educate the youth “about the importance of every effort to protect the environment.”

The students planted flame trees at American Memorial Park before they went to Managaha on Friday afternoon.

They spend the final day of their camp on Managaha Island where they get to learn more about marine life resources.

Babauta added that since camp started on June 25, presenters from MINA, Coastal Resource Management and the Division of Fish and Wildlife discussed with them the importance of tree planting, coral reefs and wet lands.

They also learned about traditional fishing methods and how wastewater is treated at the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s wastewater treatment plant and the Division of Environmental Quality’s laboratories.

CRM natural resource planner Kathy Yuknavage told them about the Micronesia Challenge which aims to conserve 30 percent of the region’s near-shore marine resources and 20 percent of terrestrial resources by year 2020.

After the summer camp, which she said gave them a great learning experience, Babauta will have an internship with Beautify CNMI! and plans to hold club meetings at school.

Hopwood science teacher Bree Reynolds said the children had fun while getting hands-on training on a lot of things related to environmental protection.

Marianas Resource Conservation and Development Council’s Angelo Villagomez said they ended the summer camp with barbecue on Managaha.

Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp, Last Day

On Satuday we woke up before the sunrise, went for a swim and fed the kids s'mores and hot dogs for breakfast.

I also crushed Sami's head:

We took the 10:30 AM ferry back to Saipan. It was a great camp, guys! See you next year!

Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp, Day 5

I wrote in my previous post that Thursday was our longest day. Well, we had the kids from 9 AM on Friday until about 12 PM on Saturday, so I guess the final day was our longest day.

And, oh man, was it a long day. I got back to my house at about noon, took a shower, washing my hair about 8 times to get all the sand out, and went to bed. I felt like I had run a marathon. I got up in time to meet Mayumi and the students from Marianas High School National Honor Society for a cleanup of Micro Beach...but only barely.

But enough about my whining.

Friday's activities started at American Memorial Park. The students were transported from Hopwood to AMP in a bus provided by Tasi Tours. Again, thank you a million times, Tasi Tours. Since I live in Garapan, I just met up with them at about 9:45 at the Park.

We met Ranger Nancy at the Park Museum. She gave the kids time to go through the World War II exhibit, then signed them in for the days activities, and gave them a short talk on National Parks and safety.

When I was college I had a professor, Dr. Barry Allen, who posed the following question during one of our lectures, "Who owns the National Parks?" The other students ventured guesses like the Federal Government, the Department of the Interior, and the National Parks Service, to which Dr. Allen pointed directly at a student and said, "No, YOU own the National Parks."


That stuck with me. Ranger Nancy told the kids pretty much the same thing. She told us how lucky we were to have a National Park on Saipan and she explained that is was Our responsibility to take care of Our National Park.

Ranger Nancy took the students through a short walking tour of the Park, leading them towards the site of our tree planting, where we were met by Representative Cinta Kaipat.

I invited Cinta to participate in our tree planting and to talk to the kids about the creation of Beautify CNMI. In introducing Cinta to the kids, I told them that although Cinta was a lawyer and a lawmaker, she had chosen to make the Environment the central focus of her public service to the CNMI. I want the kids to understand that there are many ways to work the environment into your career. Maybe someday the CNMI will even have an environmentalist governor. Maybe.

After her talk, the students presented Cinta with their models of coral reefs. Cinta is going to display them up on Capital Hill for a few weeks...but then she has to give them to Ranger Nancy so that they can be displayed at American Memorial Park.

Then it was time to plant trees! Earlier in the week, Brad Doerr came into camp to teach the kids about tree care and propagation. He came to camp again to help the kids plant six Flame Trees. Thanks, Brad!

Ranger Nancy told us where she wanted the trees planted, then with help from Brad and Rep. Kaipat's staff, we broke up into six groups and dug our holes.

After all of the holes were dug, Brad and I helped each of the groups plant their Flame Tree.

It was time for lunch by the time we finished planting our trees, so we all walked back to the AMP museum and made sandwiches. A big thank you to Boni Gomez for dropping off lunch supplies!

Today was going to be a really long day, so we gave the kids most of the afternoon to relax. Our ferry to Managaha didn't leave until 3:30. We needed the kids to be awake for our night time activities. In hindsight, we should have made the kids run a few laps to tire them out. Oh well, live and learn.

Tasi Tours transported us from AMP to the dock and from the dock to Managaha, the small island a few kilometers North of Garapan. When we arrived we set up camp and got ready for a fun night.

Once camp was set up we let the kids run free for a while. They played beach volleyball (or at least tried) and went swimming. While I watched the kids, Bree got the fire going for our delicious dinner of hot dogs and vegetables...and beef jerky, chips, cookies, soda, and candy.

(note to self: next time we do this camp, don't allow the kids to bring sugar)

We couldn't have picked a better night to have a campout. The weather was perfect and the view was stunning.

Aren't we lucky to live here? Some people on Saipan don't realize what we have. For some of the kids, this was their first trip to Managaha. It was also the first time camping for a few.

After the sun set we got the fire roaring again so that we could make s'mores. Bree had to go to three different stores before she found any marshmallows. We told the kids that they could have as many as they wanted, as long as they didn't throw up.

Then, of course, no camping trip would be complete without a giant teddy bear and a ukulele:

The kids did some learning, too. We had an activity where we looked for zooplankton and phytoplankton and we talked about the shearwaters (a bird species) that nest on Managaha. In my opinion, though, the best lesson the kids learned is how much fun and how beautiful places like Managaha can be. I mentioned before that some of the kids were visiting Managaha for the first time. How else can we get kids to be interested in protected places if we don't get them to visit protected places?

Although I hope that these kids remember the difference between phytoplankton and zooplankton and why both are important, I think it is more important that these kids take home a love for the outdoors, camping, snorkeling, Managaha, Saipan, and the CNMI. One day these kids are going to join the military or go off to college, they'll be in Baghdad or Los Angeles, and they're going to remember the island where they were born...then they'll really appreciate what we have.

One day they'll return and they'll understand the importance of protecting our Natural Resources. They'll want Saipan to stay Saipan and not become Guam or Oahu.

(steps off soapbox)

Or at least they'll remember how much fun it was getting buried in the sand:

Bree wrote about the weeklong camp on her blog, Land of the Ayuyu.

Mylene also wrote about our trip to American Memorial Park and to Managaha. Hope also wrote about Managaha. Sami hasn't written anything about the camp. Come on, Sami, start writing!