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.
The Oil Pollution Act authorizes certain federal agencies, states and Indian tribes, collectively known as the Natural Resource Trustees (Trustees) to evaluate the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on natural resources. The Trustees are responsible for studying the effects of the spill through a process known as Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). As part of this process, scientists from each Trustee entity work together to identify potential injuries to natural resources resulting from the spill and to design studies that will be used to determine and measure spill-related injuries (or impacts) to natural resources and their human uses. For the Deepwater Horizon spill, NRDA activities to date have been divided into categories that focus on specific organisms, habitats or uses. These categories include, for example:
Marine Mammals and sea turtles
Fish and shellfish
Deep water habitat Intertidal and near shore subtidal habitats (inlcuding sea grasses, mud flats, coral reefs)
Shorline habitats (including salt marsh, beaches, mangroves)
Human uses of natural resources (e.g., recreational fishing, boating, shoreline recreation, subsistence, cultural uses, etc.)
The first step in the NRDA process is known as the Preassessment Phase, Injury Assessment. During this phase, the Trustees will implement studies to evaluate the extent, severity, and duration of impacts from the oil spill. Some of these studies may need to go on for several years to fully assess the impacts to natural resources and determine the time needed for these resources to recover. Throughout the Preassessment and Injury Assessment, the Trustees will also consider how natural resources harmed by the spill may be restored through Restoration Planning, the final phase of the NRDA process. This phase will identify restoration actions which the Responsible Parties ("RPs"), including BP, will be required to pay for in order to fully compensate the public for the injuries to natural resources caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This may be accomplished through the implementation by the RP of specific restoration projects or by the payment of money damages to the Trustees. The projects, whether performed by the RP or the Trustees may include direct restoration or rehabilitation of the injured resources, or replacement or acquisition of resources equivalent to those injured.
The Trustees have and will continue to release study plans developed over the course of the spill. The process for development of each plan reflects input and advice from experienced Trustee scientists and resource managers as well as leading experts from outside the Trustee entities, including scientists who specialize in studying oil spills and natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico. The earliest approved plans are very brief as they were developed quickly to capture immediate, potentially perishable data during an evolving event. The plans also reflect the different nature of resources, data requirements, and associated study methods and techniques. Because study methods used for preassessment activities may also be applied in future injury assessment studies, some of the plans provide for both near term and longer term data collection or studies. As data from the studies become available, the Trustees may adapt study approaches or methods, or consider conducting additional studies, as needed, to ensure that the impacts of the oil spill can be fully identified and measured. This iterative process is intended to obtain the highest quality scientific information available to determine how much harm to resources has occurred and how much restoration is required.
As permitted under the Oil Pollution Act's NRDA regulations, in some instances BP has been working cooperatively with the Trustees to collect preassessment data and to conduct NRDA activities. The Trustees have afforded BP the opportunity to provide input to the Trustees in the development of preassessment study plans and many of the plans have been signed off on by representatives of Trustees and BP. Cooperation facilitates the collection and sharing of reliable data, while allowing all parties to conduct their own analysis and interpretation of that data. Trustees for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill include agencies or officials of the following:
State of Louisiana
State of Mississippi
State of Alabama
State of Florida
State of Texas
U.S. Department of the Interior, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Affairs
U.S. Department of Commerce, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration