The Division of Coastal Resources Management has been awarded $205,890 in Coral Reef Initiative and Natural Resources program funding by the Office of Insular Affairs to update the watershed management plan and priorities for the Laolao watershed area.
This is part of the nearly $1.6 million in program funding that U.S. Department of the Interior’s OIA is awarding to protect coral reefs, conduct clean-up and restoration activities, and combat invasive species through a variety of projects across the U.S. territories and freely associated states.
The funds awarded to the CNMI will also be used to conduct revegetation of the deforested and eroded uplands areas and provide wildfire surveillance in the Achugao watershed area. Reforestation efforts will improve soil stability and decrease the threat of erosion and sedimentation buildup on the coral reef and nearshore ecosystems.
The popular Watershed Warriors program will be expanded into Achugao, providing meaningful outdoor science education to 4th graders.
Funds will also support the CNMI’s participation at the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force’s biannual meetings.
The Nova Southeastern University, an academic institution in Florida, is also awarded $200,000 that will be used to manage the National Coral Reef Management Fellowship, a program that places a competitively-selected coral fellow in American Samoa, Guam, the CNMI, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
One coral fellow is placed in each territory’s local jurisdictional agency responsible for managing coral reefs and is embedded in local governments to support the coral management and policy needs of each jurisdiction. Other federal partners provide funding to support coral fellows in Hawaii, Florida, and Puerto Rico, as well as travel, training, and professional development for all seven coral fellows. The insular area governments have identified the National Coral Reef Management Fellowship as a top priority.
Other grants provided through the Coral Reef Initiative and Natural Resources program for fiscal year 2020 are awarded to the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Department of Planning and Natural Resources ($239,970); non-profit organization Ridge to Reefs in Palau ($150,275); American Samoa’s Office of the Governor ($135,930); and Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans ($103,057)
In addition, three grants totaling $591,103 were provided under the fiscal year 2020 Coral Reef Initiative and Natural Resources program to combat invasive species in several U.S. territories.
The CNMI Department of Land and Natural Resources will get $237,795, to be used to eradicate the Mucuna pruriens, also known as velvet bean, an invasive non-native vine species that has overrun several forested areas and communities on Saipan and has been known to trigger allergic reactions and lead to hospitalization for individuals with certain skin conditions.
The American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife will get $297,791 and the USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources will get $55,517.
These three grants are in addition to $942,206 announced and awarded earlier this year on May 20, 2020, for a total of $1,533,309 provided in fiscal year 2020 funds to combat invasive species in the insular areas. The brown tree snake, while also an invasive species on Guam, is funded separately through the Brown Tree Snake Control program and was also announced in May.
All projects are funded through the Office of Insular Affairs’ Coral Reef Initiative and Natural Resources program and are made available each year by Congress to support the protection of coral reefs and natural resources in the U.S. territories and the freely associated states. (PR)