04.02.14 KOSRAE Landmark land deal in Micronesia paves way for conservation

A unique land protection deal will safeguard 78 acres of forested wetland in the Yela Valley on Kosrae, Micronesia. This is what is hoped to be the first deal of what may be a few aimed to preserve the 1,400-acre valley encompassing the largest stand of Terminalia carolinensis (“ka”) trees in the world, several other endemic plant species and the endangered Micronesian pigeon.

While conservation easements are relatively common in the United States, this is the first conservation easement outside of the Americas. By bringing a new model of conservation to the Federated States of Micronesia, a local family on Kosrae teamed up with government and conservation groups to protect this biologically rich part of the world.

This revolutionary land deal is also preserving their culture and traditions — the forest provides locals with freshwater, fish from the rivers and traditional medicine. The trunk and immense buttresses of the ka tree were traditionally used to make canoes, and the nuts are an edible treat for children.

The land will be protected by a conservation easement purchased with a grant provided by the U.S. Forest Service and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and held by the Kosrae Island Resource Management Authority (KIRMA). Conservation easements, whereby the landowner retains title to the land but agrees not to exercise development and other rights, are being looked at as an extremely promising conservation tool in Micronesia because they are an especially good fit in traditional island cultures where usage rights traditionally overlap and forests remain in the family passed down through the generations. This model permits the important conservation area to stay in that ownership while allowing sustainable traditional harvest and use of the natural lands but prohibiting future development and resource exploitation.

From U.S. Embassy, Kolonia's Facebook.  

Photo by US Embassy, Kolonia, Pohnpei