:: US DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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