Newsletter Excerpt, Volume 4, March 2012

Three Questions for Tony Babauta, Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs.
Conservation is a multi-faceted discipline. How does your office approach its involvement in conservation in Micronesia? OIA provides both technical and financial assistance to support a variety of conservation efforts across Micronesia where increasing populations and global threats such as climate change pose significant threats to their natural resources.
    One of OIA's major programs is the Brown Tree Snake (BTS) Control Program. The Brown Treesnake (BTS) was unintentionally introduced to the island of Guam following World War II. The BTS is directly responsible for the extinction or local extirpation of 9 of 13 native forest birds and 3 of 12 native lizards. Snakes have caused more than 1,600 power outages in the 20-yr period of 1978-1997 and most recently nearly 200 outages per year.

Snakebite is the cause of approximately 1 in 1200 emergency room visits on Guam, with infants constituting a disproportionately high number of these cases. Due to extremely high densities of BTS on Guam, it has been accidentally transported from Guam to other sites worldwide through infested civilian and military vessels and cargo. Documented sites include: Hawaii, the CNMI, Corpus Christi, Texas; McAlester, Oklahoma; Japan; Anchorage, Alaska; Wake Island; Taiwan; Kwajalein; Diego Garcia; Darwin, Australia; and Rota, Spain. There is appropriate concern that the introduction of the BTS to other sites will have similarly catastrophic impacts.
    OIA’s BTS Program, which receives approximately $3 million annually, is a combination research and operational program designed to prevent the dispersal of this invasive species from Guam to other geographic areas and to eradicate existing or newly established BTS populations in U.S. areas. While perhaps not generally considered a “conservation” program, OIA’s BTS program is nevertheless critical to protecting, and thus conserving, native species in the region.
    How specifically does DOI involve itself regularly in resource management/conservation in Micronesia? How does this involvement differ between jurisdictions? OIA staff meet regularly with partners and grantees to identify conservation priorities and address challenges in Micronesia. One of the principal mechanisms for involvement by the CRI program is through the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (CRTF). The CRTF, which includes leaders from all the jurisdictions in Micronesia, meets semi-annually to discuss key issues, propose new actions and provide progress reports on past accomplishments and future plans for coral reef conservation. The CRTF Steering Committee meets monthly to discuss progress on these initiatives.
    OIA also provides support to regional conservation initiatives such as the Micronesia Challenge and the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative (PICCC). The goal of the Micronesia Challenge is to conserve 30 percent of near shore coastal waters and 20 percent of forest land by 2020. PICCC is a partnership of government and non-governmental organizations that aims to help resource managers achieve their conservation objectives by providing a range of scientific and technical tools.
    OIA’s annual grant cycle also provides an opportunity for OIA to review priorities and identify ways to address existing and emerging conservation issues with agencies and organizations across Micronesia. OIA places special emphasis on building local capacity and addressing the priorities for conservation action laid out the national and local action strategies developed through the CRTF.
    OIA staff travel regularly to the jurisdictions to participate in local conferences on conservation and resource management. While OIA is involved in all of the jurisdictions, the level and type of involvement largely depend on the specific requests for assistance from the jurisdictions. For example, at the request of the faculty at the College of the Marshall Islands, OIA staff have participated in marine resource surveys in the Marshall Islands that train local students in marine conservation principles and management.
    Are there any programs coming up that might be of interest to resource management agencies and NGOs that you'd like to share? The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force will be holding its next meeting in America Samoa, August 20-23, 2012. A workshop will be held as part of the meeting that will focus on developing a guide for reef managers to help them manage resources in the face of climate change.
    OIA will be reviewing annual requests for financial support and awarding funds for coral reef projects in Micronesia in the next few months. Several proposals have been submitted from

     The Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience (DR3) will be holding its next meeting in Honolulu in August ahead of the Task Force meeting. DR3 is a recently formed public-private collaboration aimed at helping to save lives, ensuring economic vitality, and enhancing human well-being across the Asia-Pacific region. Pilot projects under consideration include coral reef conservation in the Pacific region.
To view full Newsletter, click here.