Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tree Care Workshop - Day 1

Tree Trimmer Training SignToday was the first day of the Marianas Resource Conservation & Development Council's Tree Care Workshop. The brainchild of Captain Carl Brachear, the tree care workshop's goal is to train government workers to care for trees on CNMI public land.


Friday morning at 5:45 AM local time , I am going to switch on my webcam and connect to a third grade classroom in Orlando, Florida. The students are studying careers and the question was raised, "Can you make a living as an environmentalist?"

One of the students (my 9 year old brother, Kevin) mentioned that he had a brother (me) working as an environmentalist out on a small island somewhere in the Pacific. To make a long story short, after sending a few emails and making a few phone calls, we've set up a live webcast between myself and the students so that they can ask me how someone can make a living promoting environmental stewardship.

Cool, ne?

Kagman Educational Island Ribbon Cutting


Kagman SignsKagman High School Students

Know your watershed

Saipan Tribune, Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Learning center for wetlands officially opens
By Marconi Calindas

The Kagman Education Island Wetland learning center is now officially open to the public for education tours.

The federally funded learning center held its ribbon cutting ceremony at the site in Chacha Road, Kagman yesterday morning.

Marianas Resource Conservation and Development Council vice-president Ike Cabrera, who presided over the ceremony, said the center was built to help schoolchildren with their research on wetlands.

Agriculture Division staff member Ben S. Borja said the learning center would be locked up for security reasons and would be opened only upon request. He said the site is also a sanctuary for migratory birds that seasonally fly from neighboring countries such as Taiwan.

USDA RCD coordinator Ken Kramer said the project was in collaboration with the Coastal Resources Management Office and the Department of Lands and Natural Resources. It was funded through the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Signs have been put up around the site that answer several questions such as: What is a Wetland?, What is a Wetland’s Function?, Endangered Species and Wetlands and Wetlands in the Landscape.

Kramer said the signs would help inform students and the public about the role that wetlands play in the environment.

“Wetlands are important for many reasons. They provide flood protection by slowing and holding stormwater runoff, allowing the water to slowly infiltrate into the ground, where it is naturally filtered by the silt and sand. This process cleanses the water and replenishes the aquifers from which many of us get our water,” Kramer said.

Sediment-laden runoff destroys marine habitat by smothering the corals, which deprives them of oxygen and sunlight. Wetlands trap sediment and other pollutants that would otherwise flow to the ocean, home of the green sea turtle and other marine life. Fish depend upon corals for food and shelter.

Wetlands also provide wildlife habitat for many types of animals that include insects, birds, reptiles, and fish.

“Come observe the wildlife at the Kagman Education Island wetland and see for yourself what the wetland signs have to say. Schedule your visit with DLNR by calling 256-7923,” Kramer said.

Saipan and Northern Islands Soil and Water Conservation District chair Isidoro T. Cabrera commended the realization of the learning center. “The Kagman Education Island serves as a reminder to all of us that effective resource conservation, is based on a strong combination of knowledge and cooperation,” he said.

Rep. Cinta Kaipat said she was “pleasantly surprised” to learn that the center was beautiful and would truly be useful for CNMI students.

At least 30 Kagman High School students participated in the event led by KHS student Chelsea Ruluked and faculty Allan Davis. The students unveiled the signs installed within the wetland center.

For more information on the Kagman Education Island Wetland contact, Ignacio V. Cabrera, vice president, MRC&DC at (670) 236-0894, Fax: (670) 236-0895; web sites: or or e-mail Kramer at Interested schools and organizations can also contact Diane Gabaldon of the S&NISWCD 256-7923.
Marianas Variety, Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Conservation council wants more ‘education islands’ in NMI
By Emmanuel T. Erediano
Variety News Staff

THE Marianas Resource Conservation and Development Council is looking for more wetlands that can be converted into “education islands,” says its vice president, Ike Cabrera, during the inauguration of the Kagman wetland project yesterday.

Students from Kagman High School were the first ones to learn more about wetlands at the Kagman Education Island on Chacha Road.

“We want kids to do more studies about wetlands,” Cabrera said.

Council president Roland Quitugua said turning wetlands into educational venues helps spread awareness of the need to protect the environment.

The seven acre Kagman Education Island is the latest component added to the wetland which also provides flood control and irrigation to the surrounding farmlands.

Four educational signs have been installed in the area.

Coastal Resources Management Office’s Tim Lang said the signs are federally funded and cost $7,000.

The signs provide information about wetlands, how they works, their locations, and the endangered species that can be found in these areas.

Kagman is a farming area for Saipan, according to Scott Crocket, a district conservationist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services.

“So the wetland also plays an important role in irrigation,” he added.
Quitugua said the purpose of the education island project is to mitigate some environmental impacts.

“This is a living laboratory not only for the students but for the community as well,” he added.

According to Ken Kramer of the Marianas Resource Conservation and Development Council, “what we do with land management affects the quality of our marine environment.”

He said wetlands filter water that runs to the beach and the ocean.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Recycling in the News

Recycling 'Trick or Treat' a success
By Marconi Calindas

Kagman residents were surprised when a number of high schools students knocked on their doors and screamed, “Trick or Treat!” in late January, but the trick or treat was intended for the Kagman residents' garbage.

Beautify CNMI!, together with some local high school volunteers, scoured the area Saturday for the recycling activity.

At least 58 school children helped in the event. Among them were 25 Kagman High School students and some volunteers from private schools such as Grace Christian Academy and public schools like Marianas High School. Some elementary schools also joined the environmental campaign group in collecting trash in Kagman.

Click HERE for the full Saipan Tribune Story

Some trees, they are a growin'...

...but others, they are a dyin'!

I took 8 Northern Marianas College students up to the Laulau Revegetation Project site on Saturday afternoon. It was the typical Laulau field trip. I explained how our land use practices affect our marine environment, how burning our savannah kills the coral reefs, and the steps we are taking to revegetate the hillside.

We hiked around the project site and I showed them the three different planting methods we used and pointed out some of the tree species.

Certain trees are doing great, while some trees are doing, well, not so great. The Sosugi tree in this picture was about 12 inches tall in August (5 months ago):

Formosan KoaNow it is almost as tall as me. Most of the Sosugi trees we planted are this tall now.

Callophyllum inophyllumThe Da'ok trees (small tree on left side of picture above) are doing very well. Most of them have doubled or tripled in size. The Putting trees (small tree on right) are also doing very well. We planted several Putting saplings, but mostly we just broadcast Putting seeds. As you can see, the seeds sprouted some time ago. It appears that most of them sprouted and are doing well.

Some of the other species, like Banalo, Kafu, and Pago, don't seem to be doing as well. The leaves are small, yellow and in some cases are starting to whither. I don't think they'll make it through the dry season. These observations are unscientific, of course, but I think we have an idea of how to improve on our plantings.

The watershed group will be meeting again soon to go over our plans for 2007.

Click HERE to see photos of some of the saplings back in August

Utilizing the College Students

I am working with several classes at Northern Marianas College on coral reef issues. Bree Reynold's Intro to Marine Biology course is using the Micronesia Challenge as a problem based approach to learning about coral reefs.

They are spending the semester learning how Marine Biology relates to issues pertaining to the Micronesia Challenge. She is presenting the Challenge in it's basic form, which is "to Effectively Conserve 30% of our Near Shore Resources and 20% of our Terrestrial Resources by 2020," and the students are going to go through the same exercise that the CNMI government is going through to come up with solutions to the problems threatening our coral reefs.

They've even started a blog to make a record of their class.

Click HERE to read their blog

Another class I am working with is Sam McPhertes' Current Issues class (there are two of them). I have presented the Micronesia Challenge and explained some of the basic concepts of Sustainable Development, which balances Economic, Social, and Biological Needs.

Since Bree's class is already focusing on the Biological approach to the Micronesia Challenge and protecting our coral reefs, I have asked Sam's classes to tackle the Economic and Social aspects. This will include discussions on fishing, tourism, culture, diversity, government, and other non-science aspects of coral reefs.

In a few months, I hope to have each class present their findings. It should be interesting to see what they come up with.

Ask and you shall recieve

Saipan Tribune, Monday, January 29, 2007

Overzealous tree-trimmer

Nearly two dozen assorted cardinal honeyeaters, golden white-eyes, Micronesian starlings, kingfishers, rufous fantails, and sparrows lost a feeding ground, resting place, meeting site, one day this past weekend when, while I was out, an overzealous tree-trimmer cut off almost half of the branches on a flame tree growing in my yard. Admittedly, the branches that were cut stretched out over the neighbor’s empty lot, and it’s my understanding that it’s OK to cut branches leaning into your yard, even if the tree is not yours.

But most of the branches were way up high-higher, even, than my two-story house from which I took immense pleasure-up on the second floor-in watching the bright red cardinal honeyeaters come and eat, the golden white-eyes flit through the branches, a group of starlings hop about chirruping to each, an occasional kingfisher sitting haughtily on one of the branches, more rarely even the pretty little rufuous fan-tails coming by, and the ever-present sparrows. Some of them came every day, and I always stopped to admire them-the bright colors of the cardinal honeyeaters, the blue of the kingfisher, the spread of the rufous fantails peacock-like tails, the song of the larger starlings-I even learned to distinguish all their songs.

I know I can’t sue my neighbor for destroying habitat-after all, it was on his land, and I don’t think the birds are among the endangered species or for cutting branches off my tree-since they reached out over his land too. But I wish he’d been less zealous and that those tree-timming classes were more widely available.

In mourning,

Ruth Tighe

The Marianas Resource Conservation & Development Council will host a tree trimmer training this Wednesday and Thursday in Garapan. Please contact Ken Kramer, RC&D Coordinator, at 236-0893 for more information.

Blogger Meetup

If you don't know what a blog is, let me help: You are reading one right now.

The We Love Saipan Network, along with the Saipan Blogger and the Passion Profit, are hosting the CNMI's first Blogger Meetup this Wednesday night at 7 PM at Java Joe's.

The meeting will be an informal meeting for anyone with a blog or the desire or interest to start a blog. Some of us have been blogging for a few years, some for only a few days. All are welcome!

We'll share tips, ideas, links, and expertise. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Anchors Away

Half way through my dive at Dimple this morning, I was surprised to see an anchor connected to a boat on the surface. I was even more surprised to see what the anchor was doing to the coral reefs.

I think that part of Effective Conservation is going to have to include banning anchors in the CNMI's most popular dive sites.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Coming soon to a village called Kagman...

Saipan Tribune, Friday, January 12, 2007

USDA to open Education Island soon
By Marconi Calindas

The US Department of Agriculture Resource Conservation and Development office in the CNMI will soon open the newly completed Kagman Watershed Education Island Exhibit Project.

USDA officer Ken Kramer disclosed yesterday during the Beautify CNMI! general meeting at the Division of Environmental Quality Conference Room that the “Education Island” would have a ribbon cutting ceremony tentatively scheduled on Jan. 30 in Kagman.

Kramer said the last phase of the project-fencing and securing the area-was finished this week. He added that the signs have already been installed.

The project was funded through the Coastal Resource Management Office in collaboration with the USDA RCD office.

Beautify CNMI! and USDA RCD officer Angelo Villagomez said the Education Island would be open for educational excursions in the area. He said the project is intended for school children to benefit from being exposed to a wetland, as it would teach them how it prevents soil erosion and other environmental concerns.

Villagomez said the project was conceived years ago with the objectives of preserving an area in Kagman for educational purposes.

For schools and other organizations that are interested to take a tour of the site, they may contact Kramer and Villagomez for an appointment. Contact both USDA officers at 236-0894.

The Education Island Learning Center is part of the Kagman Watershed Project that aims to help Kagman residents and farmers, as well as the rest of the island. The multi-million dollar federally funded project also aims for better flood prevention methods and improved irrigation water supply in the CNMI.

Other benefits would include an enhanced farm economy, wildlife habitat protection, reduced pressure on the aquifer, a healthier coral reef and a cleaner marine environment.

The Kagman Project consists of four waterways, two sediment basins, a 70-million gallon reservoir, a 100,000-gallon storage tank, and an irrigation water delivery system.

The planning process for the project began in 1985, when the CNMI government approached NRCS and asked for help in solving the flooding problems and provide irrigation water in the area. Since the completion of the Watershed Workplan and Environmental Impact Statement in 1993, NRCS has overseen the installation of a variety of conservation practices.

For more information on the Kagman Watershed Project and other USDA programs, call 236-0888, or visit the USDA Service Center located in the DY Building, Beach Road, South Garapan. More information is also available online at

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Blogging in Beta Blogger

I am switching this blog over to the New Blogger. It will take we a little while to get the format looking like it did before. Please be patient.

The New Blogger has a lot of cool features, like a drop down Archive system, labels, and easier navigation for the user. It is also a lot easier for the blogger to play around with the different features on the blog.

All in all, totally superior to the old blogger, but it will take a few days to update.

Feliz Nuevo Ano!

Happy New Year!

Our year long coral reef outreach project launched on April 24, 2006. Our goal for the year was to recruit 75 volunteers to participate in revegetation projects, water quality sampling, and fish surveys.

Holy cow, have we been succesful! I'm still distilling all of the numbers from 2006, but at last count we had recruited over 500 volunteers...and that's not including the 3,380 volunteers that RC&D recruited to participate in Saipan's largest island wide cleanup.

In 2006 RC&D also chaired the Restoration Committee of Beautify CNMI, which was charged with restoring the historical, cultural, and natural beauty of the CNMI. Beautify CNMI was recently named the 2006 Person of the Year.

I'm looking forward to carrying our successes from 2006 over into 2007! Hello, Micronesia Challenge!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2007: The Micronesia Challenge

This is the year!

It is time to start talking about the Micronesia Challenge. Here are some links:

Blogs of note:

Micronesians in Island Conservation

MIC is a peer learning network of conservation leaders from government and non-governmental organizations committed to protecting and sustainably managing resources in their islands. MIC’s approach is to strengthen the collaborative, organizational, technical, and policy skills of leaders and organizations so that, together with communities, they can advance the conservation and management of important natural areas in Micronesia.

Beautify CNMI!

Beautify CNMI! is 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.

Coral Bones

Will tropical coral reefs be the first ecosystem to be eliminated by global warming?

Beautiful Oceans: Coral Reef and Eco Diving Magazine

A tropical warm water space for scuba divers and snorkelers interested in coral reef biology and best diving practices.

NGO News:

The Nature Conservancy

The World Conservation Union

Conservation International