Located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, the National Park of American Samoa is the most remote unit of the National Park System and the U.S. National Park south of the Equator. The Park spreads across three islands, 9,500 acres of tropical rainforest, and 4,000 acres of ocean, including coral reefs. While remote, the islands of American Samoa, true to the meaning of the word Samoa (Islands of Sacred Earth), are welcoming and offer beautiful landscapes and centuries of culture and history.
Seasoned backpacker and adventurer Yang Lu earned the grand prize in the 2015 Share the Experience photo contest with this image of a sunburst captured at sunrise in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah. Yang has made the outdoors part of his daily life and finds deep connection to the land through his lens.
“My photography is not just for recreation, it is to inspire people to explore these areas." -- Yang Lu
Photo by Yang Lu (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The plantings of cherry trees originated in 1912 as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan. In Japan, the flowering cherry tree, or "Sakura," is an exalted flowering plant. The beauty of the cherry blossom is a potent symbol equated with the evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages.
CAFTA-DR Countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua) - Active
CITES Capacity Building
With funding from the U.S. Department of State, DOI-ITAP works under the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) to strengthen implementation, enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in the region. This work aims to:
Strengthen the CITES legal framework to improve implementation in selected countries
Improve performance of CITES Management, Scientific, and Enforcement Authorities in selected countries, including improved coordination within each country and throughout the region
Develop or strengthen existing cadre of capable enforcement and inspection personnel in selected countries
Strengthen the ability of local NGOs to provide relevant information and engage in education and outreach on endangered species conservation
Support single-species projects (e.g., sea turtles, mahogany) to raise awareness and demonstrate model management of protected areas containing endangered species
Coordinate U.S. CITES capacity building efforts in the region
These activities take place in close consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a DOI agency, which houses the U.S. CITES Authorities.
DOI-ITAP coordinates multiple key governmental and non-governmental CAFTA-DR CITES implementers to implement this effort. These include:
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID Regional & Bilateral missions)
Humane Society International (HSI)
Central American Commission for Development and the Environment (CCAD)
U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Department of Justice
Improved Environmental Protection for Mining Activities in Guatemala
With funding from the U.S. Department of State, DOI-ITAP works under the Central America/Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) to bolster environmental protection for mining activities in Guatemala. Minerals mining in Guatemala has been sensitive and sometimes controversial in recent years due to several high-profile cases of foreign-owned companies extracting minerals in remote areas with insufficient measures to protect local communities and the environment. The Government of Guatemala has expressed interest in learning and applying more protective processes that would allow a continuation of this potentially important economic activity. DOI works closely with the U.S. Embassy and USAID mission to address this need.
Funding: State Department
Central America Regional - Completed
The Mundo Maya (i.e., "Mayan World") region encompasses approximately 500,000 square kilometers in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, and southern Mexico, and connects these countries through their common Mayan heritage. This area, containing magnificent archaeological sites and large swaths of intact tropical forests, is facing development pressures from the more than five million Mayan descendants and other settlers who currently reside there. Other threats include poaching of both archeological artifacts and natural resources, and pressure from growing numbers of tourists.
In 1993, the Tourism Ministries of these five countries created the Mundo Maya Organization (MMO) to develop a coordinated regional strategy to promote sustainable tourism at the Mayan archeological sites. The MMO, using both internal and external funding (e.g., from the Inter-American Development Bank), contributes to the sustainable economic and social development of the Mayan region through the establishment of regional circuits that offer cultural, ecological and adventure tourism.
DOI-ITAP provided technical assistance to 12 selected Mayan sites in the areas of: protection and maintenance of the natural and cultural resources; visitor infrastructure, services, and education; capacity-building; and community participation. DOI-ITAP staff works closely with in-country archeologists, park managers, engineers, economists, and local communities.
Funding: Inter-American Development Bank
Fire Management and Pest Control
At the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development/Guatemala – Central American Programs (US AID/G-CAP), DOI-ITAP provided technical assistance focused on fire management and forest pest control throughout Mesoamerica. This Program benefited the following eight (8) countries: Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico.
The points of contact were each country's Forest and Pest Committee members under the Commission on Central American Environment and Development (CCAD), an organization consisting of the Ministries of the Environment for each of these countries. Due to Mexico's extensive experience and capabilities with forest fires and forest pest management, DOI worked closely with its Mexican counterparts on increasing the coordination, prevention, and response capabilities of the other seven countries as well as within Mexico.
Under this program, DOI-ITAP delivered assistance through: technical assistance, training, and workshops; small grants; economic valuation; and training and outreach material.
Funding: USAID/Central American Regional Programs & USAID/Guatemala
Guatemala - Active
Maya Biosphere Reserve Management
The Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR), created in 1990 to protect the largest area of tropical forest remaining in Central America, is a key habitat for many endangered species and archeological sites of global importance. The MBR is increasingly threatened by drug trafficking, illegal logging and ranching, illegal road construction, poaching, and other criminal activity.
DOI-ITAP works closely with the USAID-Guatemala, the Guatemalan protected area management agency, Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas (CONAP), and other partners to strengthen protected area management and law enforcement in the MBR. DOI technical assistance in the Reserve promotes and enhances coordination among stakeholders within the MBR and enhance coordination, interaction, and cooperation between U.S. and Guatemalan protected area staff.
A key result of DOI-ITAP's work in Guatemala includes support for the Mirador-Rio Azul Multi-Sector Roundtable, a stakeholder forum of more than 80 government agencies, NGOs, and community organizations. Operating successfully since 2006, the Roundtable provides an excellent venue for information sharing and consensus building on MBR governance. Other achievements include development of a management plan for the Reserve, training for community law enforcement patrols, an evaluation of the management of archaeological resources, the improvement of trails for tourists in Lake Atitlán, and the provision of a radio system and weather stations to enhance fire response, law enforcement, and search and rescue missions.
Guatemala - Mirador-Rio Azul Protected Area Management
DOI-ITAP is provided technical assistance on multiple aspects of park and visitor management at the Mirador-Río Azul Natural and Cultural Zone (MRA Zone) located within the Maya Biosphere Reserve in northern Guatemala. El Mirador, the central archaeological site in the western portion of this Zone, has been identified as one of the oldest and largest Maya archeological sites in Mesoamerica.For this project, DOI-ITAP worked as a direct advisor to the Government of Guatemala to strengthen the management and protection of the MRA Zone and build the capacity of the Carmelita community to provide visitor guides and other services—ensuring that tourism is economically beneficial. DOI directed its initial assistance on the following components:
park planning and administration
visitor education and orientation
visitor and park guard infrastructure design and construction
strengthening of gateway communities in the area
resource and visitor protection.
Significant results included the completion of a law enforcement assessment for the Zone; the nomination of the site to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and the execution of an inter-disciplinary team's work plan and timeline in the five areas listed above.
Funding: Global Heritage Fund (GHF) and Foundation for Anthropological Research and Environmental Studies (FARES)
Honduras - Completed
Indigenous Peoples and Biodiversity Protection
Part of the largest contiguous rain forest in Central America, the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve is a World Heritage Site and the first and largest UNESCO-designated Man and the Biosphere Reserve (1980) in Central America. DOI-ITAP worked to protect the indigenous peoples and the biological diversity of the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, one of twenty-two World Heritage Sites listed as in danger. The main threats to the Reserve are illegal human intrusions and settlement across its western and southern boundaries. DOI-ITAP worked to promote the conservation of biological diversity by direct actions in the Reserve and helped the Government of Honduras to establish administrative controls throughout the Reserve.
The key areas of DOI-ITAP's work in Honduras dealt with economic development, tourism, community participation and local capacity building. Key results included assisting the establishment of the first two lending banks in the Reserve, helping to create some initial infrastructure in the Reserve including food, lodging, and restroom facilities as well as developing promotional materials to attract tourists. DOI-ITAP also provided training in endangered species conservation, strategic planning, decision-making, negotiation, conflict resolution, communication and uses of technology to a variety of local community, educational, political and trade organizations in the Reserve.