Enhancement of our limited and unique landscape
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is comprised of a chain of high volcanic islands located 1,000 miles south of Japan and 5,000 miles east of Hawaii. On tropical islands, where healthy forests are present, island life is enhanced by clean, fresh water, productive soil that stays in place, abundant wildlife, and healthy reefs and lagoons that provide seafood and countless resources for native islander’s traditional needs. When island forests are destroyed, the soil is washed down slope by tropical rains. Fresh water becomes scarce, wildlife disappears and corals sicken and die from sediment and chemical changes caused by too much soil. When carefully managed, forests also can provide a sustained yield of medicine, food, fuel, fiber, lumber, and poles to meet the needs of island people. The mission of CNMI Forestry is to promote best management practices while sustaining a healthy, diversity and productivity on our fragile forest and grassland resources for present and future generations. The priorities in the CNMI Forest Action Plan are set for conservation, protection and enhancement of our limited and unique landscape.
Soil erosion is affecting many local food sources. Not only is the loss of valuable topsoil decreasing agricultural productivity, but ocean resources are affected as reef and lagoon areas are silted in. The use of leguminous trees for fixing nitrogen, or green manure as a fertilizer, can increase quantities of soil nutrients. Farmers are not aware of the impacts on the soil from the practices they are using. Meanwhile, nutrients lost from the land are harmful to life in the lagoon and on the reef.
CNMI urban and community forestry addresses the need to create and maintain a healthy sustainable forest ecosystem where people live, work, and play. This healthy ecosystem includes beautification, a stable shoreline, wind barriers, stable soil, clean water, diverse urban wildlife and cooler communities. In addition, it builds pride within communities along with some economic return. The ecological restoration and enhancement aspect of the urban and community forestry program will continue to encourage partnership between the USDA Forest Service, CNMI local leaders and the citizens.
Invasive species and encroachment on forest conservation areas adversely affect the health and well-being of our forests. Currently the scarlet gourd is the most invasive and serious threat to the health of our forests and urban vegetative mosaic. The scarlet gourd is a recent introduction (early 1990s) that has spread and covered about 80% of the island of Saipan. Controlling the spread will require the establishment of buffer zones and the use of mechanical and herbicidal resources to make certain that the target species does not spread further. CNMI Forestry also targets other invasive species through the collaborative effort with Northern Marianas College – Cooperative Research Extension and Education Services.