Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ROTA: Dispatch from this year's Eco Day Camp

When a child is positively changed by his experience in nature you can see it and feel it.

It's palpable and it changes the adults around him, too. For the past three years I've been traveling to the beautiful island of Rota to help organize a summer day camp program for the island's children. For one week students join scientists and field experts at sites around the island to learn about the connections between land and sea. The team that has kept this camp going for the past six years is made of dedicated volunteers, leaders, community members, cultural practitioners, scientists and field experts.

Getting the camp together every year is always a mad scramble - the scramble to get letters out to directors of offices to get permission for things, the scramble to get funding released to use for the camp, the scramble of recruiting campers and getting their registration forms. The week-long program requires at least two months of preparation. It's functioning can appear deceptively simple but the scramble can leave you crazy. In fact, at the beginning of camp I have a brief moment of wondering why I signed up to do it again - what with all the no-shows, surprises and snafus through the first day.

But once the camp gets rolling I forget about the headaches. The children of Rota amaze me every year with their enthusiasm for the natural world. I realize shortly after camp starts that I am privileged to share these life-changing experiences with these children.

Today, one of our youngest campers, Efrain, became comfortable swimming in the ocean. He finally let go of the side of the boat and began floating out to discovery. Another camper called his parents from the top of Wedding Cake Mountain to tell them that he "really" made it to the top. We know that some of these children will be our future conservationists and scientists. Each day we witness the shifts in how they value and relate to our planet. Their appreciation and understanding is growing.

Sometimes, when planning and undertaking educational programs, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Sometimes I hear resource managers question the time spent on educating children, maybe they think its overkill or that a disproportionate amount of resources is spent on it or that it doesn’t directly address more pressing management problems. But I know that what we can do to shape the environmental ethics of our children is a long term but critical endeavor and it is as important as collecting data or issuing permits.

We know that the root of our environmental problems is the human population and its destructive behavior. Educating, inspiring and influencing children are all ways to prevent or counter the development of environmentally harmful practices for the future. We all know how hard it is to change human behaviors after they’ve taken root ….

PHOTOS: Top: Propogating bahia grass seedlings at the DLNR nursery for the Talakahya Revegetation Project in the Sabana Conservation Area. Center: Hands on learning at Bill Hocog's farm in Rota. Mr. Hocog uses soil conservation practices to balance environmental benefits and farm productivity. Bottom: Rota Eco Camp students explore Coral Gardens, a popular snorkeling and dive site, in the Sasanhaya Bay Marine Protected Area.

Posted by
Lisa Huynh Heller
12:13 am
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Location: Rota, CNMI

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CNMI: Motivation

I'm sight seeing. Again. Yes, sight seeing!

I love taking a stroll around the island midday with the sun hanging over head illuminating our beautiful forests and the unique creatures that live there. Every weekend, I always find the time to take my family around the island for a leisurely stroll as an excuse to get out of the house. I enjoy watching the waves break on Banzai Cliff and carefully scanning the water for turtles, feeling the cool breeze on the highest point of Suicide cliff where gravity is defied by the rising raindrops. You can head down from Suicide Cliff and go to the Grotto, a local swimming and diving spot and cool down from the sizzling heat. Further down the road is Historic Kalabera Cave with its wall drawings etched by locals during World War II. Down south, along Beach Road, the crystal clear water glistens in your eyes and has a hint of red from the reflection of blooming Flame trees that align the pathway.

Although I have stayed on Saipan for over 20 years, I can never get tired of such beauty we have been blessed with. Litter, more homes/buildings, and carelessness threaten these beautiful sights I love to visit. Whether you’re feeling down in the dumps, or stressed from being cramped up in the office all day, step out and ease your mind with a beauty that’s one of a kind.

Only on Saipan!

PHOTOS: Waves crash against the rugged shore of Banzai Point on the northern point of the island of Saipan.

Posted by
Kid Cabrera
7:32 pm
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
: Saipan, CNMI

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

SAIPAN: A Day at Micro Beach

I spent a Saturday at Micro beach, here in Saipan, a few weeks ago with a group of friends. It was supposed to be just another weekend of hanging out, b-b-q’ing, and playing softball, however, it was much more crowded than expected. There was a large family gathering, which looked like a birthday party, not too far from our group. Not too long after we arrived, their party started to die down. This meant we would have space to start playing a game of softball. Finally, they all left quickly and me and my two of my friends went over to collect some of the stuff they left since it was in the way for us to play.

We couldn’t believe how careless this group of people was. There was still a bunch of trash on the ground that included bottle caps, six pack rings, pieces of plastic, and trash bags. We also found a baby diaper lying right next to the trash can. We cleaned the place up, not because we wanted to start our softball game, but because we knew that if we didn’t clean up, something bad could happen- like the trashe could end up in the ocean, or animals, like birds, could mistakenly eat some of it thinking it is food. Luckily my friends are just as much concerned about things like this than I am. I remember how a conversation started because of this. We all started to talk about how some people can be negligent when it comes to littering. We got into how common littering around the islands has always been a problem and that it shouldn’t have to be a problem at all.

The moment people of the CNMI understand the importance of conservation is the moment things like littering in beaches will lessen and we will all be happy campers.

Posted by
David Sablan
12:19 pm
Monday, May 17, 2011
Location: Saipan, CNMI

Monday, April 25, 2011

SAIPAN: I cannot imagine life without the Marianas Fruit Dove

For the birds? Yeah I'll get up early. After a late night of celebrating our friends beautiful wedding, my buddy and I got up a little (maybe a lot) after sunrise to hook up with some folks who were tagging birds. This morning we were boonie stomping around the Obyan area. The CNMI has some of the most beautiful, watchable birds around. We saw Rufous fantails (very vocal), Bridled white eyes (look much bigger in the trees – tiny down low) and Golden white eyes (gorgeous golden coloring - even prettier up close). No matter where you are, as long as you go at the right times, around sunrise or sunset, you'll probably see one of these cool looking birds or one of the many others inhabiting the CNMI. But threats like habitat loss and invasive species threaten to make these common sights uncommon. We need to better balance land development needs with conservation needs to ensure the survival of birds like the iconic Mariana Fruit Dove – with its bright red and green plumage. A CNMI without them would never be the same.

Posted by
Lisa Huynh Heller
3:37 pm
Monday, April 25, 2011
Location: Saipan, CNMI

Saturday, April 16, 2011

GUAM: Facebook Report

I found these pictures on Facebook posted by a company on Guam that offers grilling parties. These pictures were posted between February and July 2010. The humphead parrotfish (right) is illegal to poach. The posts bragged about how delicious they were. Sad. Are our people starving that we need to poach these fish? Just terrible.

These are Napoleon wrasse, not illegal to poach as of this writing, but they are monitored. Traditional fishermen don't even like these fish because they're tough, but young sportsmen hunt them for size. It is very difficult here to enforce laws.

/submitted by js-Guam/