Environmental stewardship efforts of civic groups have served as an effective tool in promoting sustainable tourism in any community, and the Environmental and Natural Resources Organization is doing just that for the CNMI.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Office on Saipan presented ENRO with the 2013 National Earth Team Award for its exceptional voluntary activities that improve the quality of life on the islands.
NRCS Saipan field office staffers led by district conservationist Kendal Hicks handed out a trophy and plaque to ENRO in a ceremony held at the Northern Marianas College campus. Over a dozen student members were present to receive the national recognition, which they hope would pave the way for other students and organizations to follow suit in embracing environment-friendly practices.
Founded in 2010, the college-based group has about 30 active student members enrolled under the NMC Natural Resources Management department.
ENRO is recognized for its participation in several activities-the annual Environmental Expo, Agricultural Fair, Laulau Bay revegetation efforts, farm visits with the NRCS Saipan field office team, and most notably the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of USDA last year.
About a dozen ENRO members braved the torrential rain in May 2012 to mark USDA's milestone by removing weeds and other wild plants overpowering the saplings planted in the Laulau Badlads.
Hicks said it was the NRCS Saipan field office that nominated ENRO for the award, and the youth organization outperformed other environmental groups throughout the nation in winning the award.
“I just think it's a fabulous and well-deserved honor. I think it's fitting that they were recognized given the hardships that they had to do, the level of work that they have contributed to the community,” Hicks said.
ENRO president Severino P. Alforeza III said their organization is composed of youth volunteers who devote their time raising environmental awareness.
“Now that our efforts have been recognized, we hope to get more members who can help us out in making our islands a better place,” he said.
ENRO's recognized activities were conducted during the term of its previous president, Tom Pangelinan, who touted the organization's teamwork as instrumental in achieving their mission.
“We want to reach out to as many members of the public through our future activities such as beach cleanups and school presentations,” he added.
Dr. Alfredo B. De Torres, NRM department chairman whose efforts revived the once inactive ENRO, said his initiative to bring the group to life has been inspired by pahinungod, a concept that denotes volunteerism and is widely popular in the Philippine university where he served as a faculty member.
De Torres said that besides conservation and environmental studies, NRM also seeks to expose students to off-island internship opportunities, expanding their knowledge to benefit the islands.
ENRO members said they will carry on with their community outreach, at a time when the government is working hard on improving the tourism industry. The youth volunteers said that now more than ever, residents must come together and rally to protect the islands' resources while aiding its main industry, which is on its way to recovery.