Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs Announces $2.7 Million to Protect Coral Reefs and Natural Resources

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) today announced $2,748,689 million in fiscal year 2023 grant funding under the OIA Coral Reef Initiative and Natural Resources program to help protect corals and fight invasive species in the U.S. territories and the freely associated states.

Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Carmen G. Cantor will be in Kona, Hawai’i in the coming week to co-chair the annual meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. She will be accompanied by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Keone Nakoa and other key staff from OIA and the Ocean, Great Lakes, and Coastal program.

“The funding support we are providing this year will help support coral protection initiatives, participation in the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force as well as the National Coral Reef Fellowship Management Program, protect watershed areas, and so much more,” said Assistant Secretary Cantor. “I look forward to serving as co-chair of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and learning more about threats and challenges to corals and natural resources, but also to celebrating efforts and the successes in protecting them. While corals are critical specifically to island communities, they have an impact globally on the ocean resources that we all rely on.”

Assistant Secretary Cantor co-chairs the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force with the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Established in 1998 through a Presidential Executive Order, the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force aims to “lead U.S. efforts to preserve and protect coral reef ecosystems and includes leaders of 14 federal agencies, seven U.S. states, territories, and commonwealths, and the freely associated states.

The Coral Reef Initiative and Natural Resources program funding for fiscal year 2023 will be provided as follows:

    American Samoa 

  • $298,570 to the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources for the American Samoa Marine Invasive Species Detection Program. Funds will go towards re-establishing baseline data for monitoring marine-introduced invasive species in Pago Pago harbor, early detection, and bolstering management of invasive species.

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)  

  • $234,498 – CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources for activities and coordination surrounding invasive species and support for an Entomologist.
  • $124,223 – CNMI Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality to support coral reef initiatives in the CNMI and participation in the annual meetings of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force.

    Guam 

  • $163,526 – Guam Department of Agriculture to support coral reef initiatives in Guam and participation in the annual meetings of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force.
  • $130,631 – University of Guam for expansion of pest and invasive species monitoring under the Guam Port of Entry Forest Pest Management Program, such as Little Fire Ant infestations on Port Authority properties.
  • $258,320 – White Buffalo Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization, will work at the landscape level to control an overabundance of the wild boar population on-island.

    U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI)
     
  • $78,569 – Government of the USVI for the implementation of early detection, rapid response, and eradication activities to control nuisances and invasive species. Funds also support the Nuisance and Invasive Species Awareness Week.

    Republic of Palau
     
  • $446,919 – Island Conservation, a non-governmental organization, will work with Sonsorol State in Palau and other partners in Palau to conduct nature- based solutions to strengthen island and nearshore resiliency and improve the economy, water, and food security for Sonsorol State. The program includes removing invasive species such as rats and the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle.
  • $205,257 – Ridge to Reefs, a non-governmental organization, will work with the Palau Community College, local governments, and local conservation organizations to conduct community-based restoration activities in targeted watershed areas in Babeldaob. Projects include introduction salt-water resistant taro crops and green infrastructure waste-water management.

    Multiple Insular Areas  

  • $298,466 – The Nature Conservancy will work with state groups and local women’s organizations in the Federated States of Micronesia and in Palau to help manage marine resources and build community resilience to climate change. Efforts will focus on improving the health of nearshore reefs and mangroves by empowering and enabling women’s groups to actively participate in the management of those resources.
  • $209,940 – Nova Southeastern University to include fellows in the National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program from American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Managed by Nova Southeastern University in coordination with NOAA, the National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program helps addresses current capacity gaps in coral and marine resources management in the United States and the territories.

The Office of Insular Affairs’ Technical Assistance Program (TAP) Division completes its final reviews of applications and recommendations for grant awards by early September each year. OIA teams review applications with experts from other federal agencies when applicable. The Assistant Secretary makes decisions to award based on a variety of factors, including the merit review factors included in the grant announcement on www.grants.gov under CFDA #15.875, recommendations from the leadership from each of the Insular Areas, and letters of support for projects. Consideration is also given to equity and fairness across all the island areas.

The Ocean, Great Lakes, and Coastal Program, under the purview of the Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs manages the activities of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force for the Assistant Secretary.

The Office of Insular Affairs also under the purview of the Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs manages funding provided through the Coral Reef and Natural Resources Initiative.

The Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs and the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) carry out the Secretary of the Interior’s responsibilities for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, OIA administers and oversees federal assistance under the Compacts of Free Association to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. OIA also administers a discretionary Technical Assistance Program for all the insular areas. Find information about OIA and its work on www.doi.gov/oiaFacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube