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Office of the Secretary
April 21, 2008
Joan Moody
(202) 208-6416

Secretary of the Interior Kempthorne Presents Tavita Togia of American Samoa with Cooperative Conservation Award for Earth Day

WASHINGTON, D.C.— At a ceremony in the nation's capital today, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne recognized Tavita Togia, a Samoan biologist with the National Park of American Samoa, as one of 21 recipients nationwide of the Department of the Interior's Cooperative Conservation Award.

The 21 awards recognized the work of more than 700 groups and individuals who achieved excellence in conservation through collaboration and partnerships.

"These outstanding partnerships and cooperative efforts represent a fundamental way in which our Department provides stewardship for America with integrity and excellence," Secretary Kempthorne said. "They embody a broad spectrum of conservation work from restoring wetlands, rangelands and mine lands to protecting wildlife, conserving water and fighting invasive species to teaching conservation values to the next generation."

The award to the Mr. Togia recognizes his outstanding dedication and skill in the collaborative conservation of rainforests in American Samoa by addressing the threat of invasive species. He has successfully bridged both administrative and cultural boundaries, motivating villagers, village councils, and park employees to combat the non-native tamaligi tree (Falcataria moluccana). This noxious invasive tree spreads rapidly and outcompetes native forest species, threatening the structure and function of the rainforest ecosystem, which contains many species found nowhere else on earth. To date, more than 2,000 tamaligi trees across more than 1,000 acres have been destroyed.

"Mr. Togia distinguishes himself through his leadership, initiative and ability to identify cooperative solutions, hands-on participation in field activities, educational outreach efforts, and especially his work with the local Samoan community," the award noted. "He has created a cooperative model of how to work with villagers to accomplish conservation projects within a Samoan context-a winning combination of listening to, and working with, the traditional village leaders, establishing common goals, engaging active participation by local villagers, and motivating people to action."

The Department of the Interior's Cooperative Conservation Award recognizes conservation achievements resulting from the cooperation and participation of individual landowners, citizen groups, private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and federal, state, local, and/or tribal governments.

"This is a fitting start to a week of Earth Day activities," the Secretary told the crowd at the main Interior auditorium. "If anyone were to ask me why America is the world leader in conservation of natural resources, I would simply point to the people in this auditorium. You are the spirit and you are the hands of cooperative conservation."

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