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NMA, TMS participate in MINA conservation program

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Northern Marianas Academy and Tanapag Middle School rounded out the participants in Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance’s Schools for Environmental Conservation (SFEC) alongside Mount Carmel, Kagman High School, Marianas High School and Saipan Southern High School.

SFEC is a program that provides opportunities for students and teachers to learn about and work on a project that focuses on a specific environmental issue. This year’s theme was “Learning About, Interacting With, and Actively Conserving Saipan’s Watersheds.” The schools were to create a Conservation Action Plan (CAP) and implement it throughout the school year.

NMA and TMS joined to form one SFEC team under the guidance of NMA advisor Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong and TMS teacher Acelia Dela Cruz. The NMA/TMS team had originally proposed to maintain a stream flowing by the San Roque Cemetery, but following several site visits, had decided that the project would require more manpower than they had available. The team decided instead to focus on how they could enhance two existing mangrove sites in Tanapag by planting additional mangrove trees.

The students learned that mangroves are a group of trees and shrubs that live in a coastal intertidal zone, which is an area of marine shoreline that is exposed to air at low tide and covered with seawater at high tide. There are 80 different species of mangroves. Mangroves slow the movement of erosion and are home for fish and other organisms seeking protection from predators. Other benefits are that they serve as a filtration system and act as dense barriers against storms and tsunami, stabilize shores, improve water quality, help to absorb carbon dioxide, and reduce greenhouse gases.

Scientists are discovering that mangrove swamps are extremely important to the health of the planet, but are disappearing at an alarming rate around the world due to human development, climate change, and aquaculture. In the last decade 35 percent of the world’s mangroves have been destroyed.

With assistance from BECQ, DLNR, and Rep. Vinnie Sablan (Ind-Saipan), an initial visit to the two stream sites resulted in positive feedback for the students to develop their SFEC CAP with a focus on mangrove planting. Flowing down from the Achugao Watershed, the two streams empty out into the Tanapag Lagoon at two points southwest of the Tanapag Beach Park.

According to team advisor and MINA project manager Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong, “It was an exciting project that was decided upon, as going into the project, not much was known about mangrove habitats on Saipan. In fact, we are still learning about mangroves as our team’s project progresses.”

The TMS/NMA teams came up with two objectives: 1) by the end of 2016, the Tanapag community will be aware of practices affecting streams; and 2) by the end of 2017, there will be a 50-percent increase in number of mangrove trees in targeted sites. To accomplish the first objective, students designed a poster with information about the importance of mangrove habitats that will be placed at Tanapag Middle School and around the Tanapag village. The team plans to hold community meetings in the TMS school cafeteria to discuss mangrove habitats and threats, so that they can help increase best practices of those living upstream from the mangroves located at the end of the streams.

To address their second objective, the students will work with BECQ and DLNR biologists and staff to identify best practices for mangrove planting. Following this, they will hold at least two mangrove-planting events. The team plans to implement their CAP activities through the summer and into the next school year, and is excited to continue partnering with MINA to meet their objectives.

MINA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of the diverse natural resources of the Northern Mariana Islands. MINA’s members come from all walks of life and are tied together by the clear understanding that we, the people of the Northern Mariana Islands, have the right and responsibility to act as stewards of our own natural inheritance. MINA has a seven member board of directors and more than 90 active individual and business members. Individual membership dues are $20 per year, student dues are $5 per year and business member dues are $100 per year.

To learn more about MINA’s various projects, please call 233-7333 or log on to www.minapacific.org. To get updates on our projects follow us on our Facebook page. (PR)

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