DLNR chief: Limited personnel impedes protection of species


Limited resources and personnel prevents broader species protection in the CNMI, according to acting Department of Land and Natural Resources secretary Richard Seman, giving some context to a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report on the “inadequacy” of the CNMI’s regulatory mechanisms.

In an interview yesterday, Seman cited the lack of manpower in the law enforcement section of the CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife as “obstacles in getting the job done.”

“Not only five people can do the job. We know for a fact that some activity occurring might be at nighttime, and that’s where we don’t have people going out there on a regular basis. There may be some

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to do some patrol, but that’s roving,” he said.

Enforcement is harder especially in remote areas and sanctuaries like Bird Island, as extra schedules are implemented during identified turtle nesting periods, he said.

The Service has proposed 23 species in the Marianas to be listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Sixteen of these species occur in the CNMI, where the Service explored the “inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms” relating to the protection of these species as one of the contributing factors to them being listed in their October report.

Citing several chapters of CNMI law, the Service found that these regulations are “modestly enforced and are currently inadequate to protect” these species, finding that for both Guam and the CNMI, the enforcement of these “regulations is not documented.”

Seman said this lack of manpower would be one of the things addressed in the proposed listing’s comment period, which is ongoing. He also posed this question: “What’s the point of listing a species if there is inadequate enforcement to address those?”

Listing could also create some land development problems for the CNMI, he said, noting how the nightingale reed warbler is “healthy” and thriving in the CNMI, adapting not only to grass but tangan tangan as well, despite its federal designation as endangered.

Seman said it is their position that some of the species proposed are not endangered at all but may appear so because the species are only found in the CNMI.

The ESA comment period has since reopened since it closed in December, after first opening in October. The new comment period closes Feb. 11, with public hearings scheduled in the coming days. The first one will be on Saipan at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center this Wednesday; the second on Rota at Sinapalo Elementary School, Thursday; and the last on Saturday at the Tinian Elementary School.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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