Saipan Tribune, Thursday, December 07, 2006
The Micronesia Challenge is on!
In October of last year, Palau President Tommy Remengesau issued a bold challenge to the leaders of the Micronesian islands. Called the Micronesian Challenge, Remengesau asked the leaders of Guam, CNMI, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands to join him in committing to effectively conserve at least 30 percent of the nearshore marine resources, and 20 percent of forest resources by the year 2020. All of the executives agreed, and the Micro Challenge was on!
The CNMI has approached the Micronesian Challenge with gusto. After an initial meeting facilitated by the Nature Conservancy's Trina Leberer, the director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife was tasked with further developing our approach to achieving the goals and objectives of the Challenge. He recruited other DFW staff, as well as employees of the Coastal Resources Management Office, the Division of Environmental Quality, the Division of Fish and Wildlife, and of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Members then formed marine and forest working groups.
The CNMI is taking a rigorous approach to defining “effective conservation of 30 percent of nearshore marine resources.” Chaired by a fisheries biologist, the marine group is crafting an ecosystem-based definition. Effective marine conservation comprises four main components: healthy fisheries; a healthy benthic environment; adequate laws, regulations, and enforcement; and public support. By integrating measurements of the effectiveness of each of these components for each island in the CNMI, a measurement of the percentage of the benthic and fish communities that are under effective conservation can be determined.
Meanwhile, the forest group has identified three main goals towards achieving effective conservation of 20 percent of forest resources; maintain existing forested areas, increase the current extent of forested areas, and prevent further fragmentation of these valuable resources. Some conservation actions which could be taken to meet these goals are acquiring additional public lands, planting native trees, establishing new terrestrial conservation areas, and increasing public awareness of forest resources in order to promote economically beneficial tourism, public health, and welfare. In addition, effectively managing forest resources in watersheds will generate better water quality and reduce nonpoint source pollution from runoff.
A final cross-cutting component of the approach is an education and outreach campaign plan. Two full-time community involvement liaisons would be hired. These individuals would meet with members from all sectors of the community to both inform them of and involve them in the Challenge. Through a variety of approaches from small gatherings to large regional celebrations, the hope is to generate widespread public support and action toward achieving the goals of the Challenge.
The next step is for representatives from all of the Micronesian islands to meet in Palau to discuss plans and coordination of efforts. That meeting is taking place from Dec. 4 to 8, in Koror. The CNMI is committed to be a part of the Micronesia Challenge, and looks forward to the upcoming meeting in Palau to continue discussing implementation of the Challenge.