Dedicated American Samoan Recognized for Conservation Work
Washington D.C. April 21, 2008 – In an award ceremony today at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Secretary Pulele'i'te* Kempthorne recognized several awardees for their outstanding conservation achievements attained through collaboration and partnership with others with the 2008 Cooperation Conservation Award. Among the recipients was Tavita Togia of the National Park Service, National Park of American Samoa, recognized for his unparalleled accomplishments collaborating with traditional leaders and locals, nonprofits, and Government agencies to eradicate invasive species in American Samoa.
"One of the most urgent environmental problems facing American Samoa today is the rapid spread of invasive plant species across its steep island landscape. These species grow and spread rapidly and outcompete native forest species, threatening the structure and function of the rainforest ecosystem, which contains many species found nowhere else on earth. Mr. Tavita Togia, a native Samoan who serves as the only terrestrial biologist for the small and remote National Park of American Samoa, recognized this closing window of opportunity and took action. Understanding the impossibility of success without collaboration, Mr. Togia has teamed with villagers, their traditional Village Councils, non-Government donor organizations, local agencies, and the National Park. He personally initiated a long-term program on the Island of Tutuila to eradicate Falcataria moluccana, the most noxious invasive tree species, locally called the tamaligi. Approximately 35 percent of the forested lands on Tutuila Island (the main island in the territory) have been invaded by the tamaligi. Mr. Togia and his crew of volunteers, seasonal staff, and village workers girdled every large tamaligi seed tree across more than 1,000 acres of infested forest, over 2,000 trees in total.
Signed by the Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne
Also present at the awards ceremony was Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Nikolao Pula who expressed his appreciation for Togia’s work and making American Samoa proud. Tavita was the only individual to receive an award and the only recipient recognized for conservation work in the insular areas.
When asked what he thought of receiving the award, Tavita Togia made special mention of his appreciation to all the partners and collaborators in making this work a success. “I especially want to recognize the Fagasa Village Council, without whom the success of this important work would not have been possible.”
Thank you Tavia and Congratulations from the Office of Insular Affairs.
The Cooperative Conservation Award recognizes cooperative conservation achievements that involve collaborative activity among a diverse range of entities that may include Federal, State, local and tribal governments, private for profit and nonprofit institutions, other non-governmental entities, and individuals. For more information, visit this website: DOI Partnerships Awards (http://www.doi.gov/partnerships/awards.html)
*Note: Pulele’i’ite is the chiefly title that was bestowed upon Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne when he visited American Samoa in June 2007. The title is not term-limited.