Interior Provides $1 Million in Grants for Natural and Cultural Resource Protection in the U.S. Island Areas

Funds to Protect Watersheds; Coral Reefs; Mobilize Communities;
Build Local Capacity

Last edited 06/17/2020
Contact Information

Tanya Harris Joshua 202-208-6008,

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 19, 2017) – Interior Acting Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Nikolao Pula has made available $1,003,787 for natural and cultural resource protection in the U.S. Insular Areas.  The funds will support a wide variety of initiatives which include watershed management, GIS skills development, radar monitoring and marine protected areas surveillance, youth education in conservation management, and environmental law-enforcement training.  These projects support sustainable use of natural and cultural resources in the U.S. territories and freely associated states.

“People in the islands depend on the strength and viability of their natural resources for sustenance, and physical and socio-economic well-being,” said Pula. “Even small amounts of funding can yield great impacts, and this year’s recipients successfully demonstrate the wide range of areas where assistance is needed.”

The FY2017 natural and cultural resource projects, listed by island area, follow:


The American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources will use $94,906 to:

  1. Coordinate efforts in the Faga’alu, Vatia, and Nu’uuli Watersheds, each prioritized by either the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force or the territory.  Overfishing, climate change, land-based pollution, and population pressure have been identified as the four primary threats to natural resources in these areas.
  2. Continue development of rain gardens and other best practices to manage storm water runoff in the territory by collaborating heavily with federal, territorial, and academics as well as village councils. 
  3. Provide GIS mapping training and certification to better inform management of priorities across watersheds, raingardens, marine protected areas, managed and unmanaged areas on the island.
  4. Set up integrated radar systems to monitor and deter poaching in the Tutuila Marine Protected Areas.



The CNMI Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality Division of Coastal Resources Management will use $95,000 to: 

  1. Train staff in marine and island eco-systems management;
  2. Conduct “Ridge to Reef” educational program for youth to make connections between land-based sources of pollution and coastal health;
  3. Provide surveillance, monitoring, and outreach to reduce littering, violations, and illegal dumping in Garapan;
  4. Update the CNMI Coral Reef Management Priorities Setting Document;
  5. Study Saipan lagoon seagrass to establish benefits these habitats provide to near-shore coastal environment; and
  6. Update Conservation Action Plan for Garapan, the most densely populated watershed in the CNMI, and to help prioritize the most imminent threats such as polluted storm water runoff, nutrient pollution, or algal growth.

Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance, a non-profit organization in the CNMI, will use $94,881 to educate and train high school and middle school students in community conservation and stewardship programs to protect Saipan’s natural resources and the environment.  This year the students will develop a school conservation action plan.  They will also carry out reforestation projects at several public parks, particularly in coastal areas impacted by Typhoon Soudelor in 2015.


Guam’s Bureau of Statistics and Plans will receive $95,000 for a variety of projects including

  1. Providing coral reef management support through participation in local and regional meetings to address and promote sound management of coral reef conservation efforts on Guam.  These efforts promote sustainability of Guam’s tourism industry and responsible development along Guam’s shorelines.
  2. Support the Guam Nature Alliance, the University of Guam’s Island Sustainability Conference and other efforts to engage communities in the management of Guam’s land, water and ocean resources.
  3. TASI Watch Beach Guides will be hired and trained to monitor trends in recreational use and conduct educational outreach at Piti’s Tepungan Bay, one of five marine preserves on Guam and also one of the most heavily used for introductory dives.  The Guam Visitor’s Bureau documented more than 125,000 dive visitors in 2015, with no details on how many may have used the Piti site.  Understanding those numbers will help guide strategies to reduce recreational impacts on one of Guam’s most important local reefs. Tasi means sea in Chamorro.


The USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources is granted $103,000 to:

  1. Address the emerging threat of red algae, Ramicrusta, on coral reefs in the territory.  The goal is to characterize its abundance and behavior while exploring options for management and mitigation.  Red algae interactions with live coral colonies have caused bleaching and complete mortality.  The red algae overgrowth has already affected three endangered coral species and the threatened elkhorn and staghorn corals in the waters surrounding the territory.
  2. Market and advertise the Reef Responsible Sustainable Seafood Initiative to promote preservation, moderation and conservation of seafood in the territory.  Marketing will include signage, radio jingles, social media ads and a music video similar to the new “Conch Gone” Youtube video hit in the Bahamas. 


The National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program was granted $200,000 for 2017-2018 to help place a Coral Fellow in each of the four U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the USVI, and the CNMI.  The Coral Fellows program was identified by the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force members (which include the governors of these U.S. territories) as one of its highest priorities for funding.  The collaborative fellowship program, which is administered by the National Coral Reef Institute of Nova Southeastern University in Florida seeks to build next generation leaders and capacity for effective local coral reef ecosystem management.  NOAA will provide an additional $400,000 for travel, training, and development of the fellows and provide for additional fellows to be placed in Hawaii, Florida and Puerto Rico.


Ridge to Reefs, a non-profit organization, is granted $100,000 to work with the Belau Watershed Alliance, the Palau Conservation Society and other local and community partners on Palau to address increases in growth and development around the main island of Babeldaob since completion of the circumferential Compact Road.  Stakeholders are expected to address concerns such as soil erosion and sediment transport impacting the coasts and coral reefs, degraded savannahs, and impacts of unsustainable agricultural practices.


The Nature Conservancy Micronesia will receive $93,600 to pilot a community based fisheries management program on Oneisomw Island in the Chuuk Lagoon and address a decline in fisheries due to overfishing and damage of coral reef habitats.  Chuuk has only 2% of its marine resources designated as no-take areas, the lowest among the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia.  Chuuk has suffered from challenges such as overfishing, land-based pollution, the lack of a statewide approach to management, and a lack of capacity for resource planning.  This project is in line with the Micronesia Challenge, a shared commitment by the chief executives of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau to effectively conserve at least 30% of near-shore marine and 20% of terrestrial resources across the Micronesia region by 2020, and shared recognition that the future of the islands depends on the viability of their marine and terrestrial environments.


The Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT) will receive $127,400 to fund the participation of one conservation officer from each of the Micronesian island jurisdictions in the Micronesia Challenge to participate in the first course scheduled for 2017 at the Marine -Terrestrial Conservation Enforcement Academy at the Guam Community College (GCC).  Through this MCT-GCC collaboration conservation officers across the region will be trained in safety procedures and how to approach and apprehend alleged violators as well as prepare reports that can stand up in court.  The Micronesia Conservation Trust, a financial mechanism of the Micronesia Challenge, is a regional organization supporting biodiversity conservation and related sustainable development for the people of Micronesia in the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the U.S. Territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

All funding for cultural and natural resources protection and management was provided under what was formerly called the Coral Reef Initiative and is available under CFDA# 15.875 at All four U.S. territories of the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as well as the three freely associated states of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau are eligible to apply.

Discretionary funding provided by the Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior is appropriated annually by the U.S. Congress to help address needs in the U.S. Insular Areas.

The Secretary of the Interior is responsible for coordinating federal policy with respect to the territories of the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and administering and overseeing U.S. federal assistance provided to the freely associated states of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau under the Compacts of Free Association. On behalf of the Secretary, the Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas executes these responsibilities through the Office of Insular Affairs whose mission is to foster economic opportunities, promote government efficiency, and improve the quality of life for the people of the insular areas.



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